A measles outbreak has infected six people in Shelby County this month (April 2016). That number is making news since only nine cases of measles have been reported in Tennessee since 2003. To learn more, we spoke with Memphis and Shelby County Health Department spokesperson Shelley Walker.
Here’s what you need to know to keep your kids healthy.
• Measles are a virus and spread by coughing or sneezing. The airborne virus can live on a surface for up to two hours. It is very contagious.
• Symptoms include a high fever (104 degrees), runny nose, cough, red eyes, and a reddish-brown rash that erupts three to four days after symptoms first begin. “The rash starts on the face and head and spreads over the rest of the body,” says Walker.
• Measles can be spread four days before the rash appears to four days after appearing. You are most contagious when running a fever, runny nose, and cough.
• If your child appears sick, call your physician first. If measles is suspected, office personnel will want to make arrangements so as to minimize exposure to other patients. They recommend people who contract measles be quarantined for up to 21 days.
• To prevent measles, get vaccinated. Vaccinations are safe and the only way to ensure protection. Walker recommends anyone born after 1957 who’s never had measles or the vaccine receive at least one dose of MMR. If your child has not been vaccinated, do it today. Children typically receive the first dose of MMR vaccine between ages 12 and 18 months. The second dose is between ages 4 and 6, before kindergarten. Remember, vaccinations protect your child and your community.
• Questions? Call the Measles Hotline at 222-9299.