Health officials have reported a case of measles found in an international traveler who arrived in Memphis, Tennessee this week. A “small child” who arrived at Memphis International Airport from overseas was positively diagnosed. The child is now undergoing treatment in isolation at Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital. Dr. Helen Morrow, health officer for the Shelby County Health Department, said, “To the best of my knowledge, the child is doing very well.”
The unidentified child traveled on a flight from Brussels to Newark Liberty International Airport, where he spent several hours waiting for his connecting flight to Memphis. Officials with the New Jersey Department of Health have issued a warning to passengers who were in Terminals B and C between 12:45 and 9 p.m. ET on Monday that they may have been exposed to the virus.
Officials say there was minimal risk of exposure to the community. Nearly all of the exposure risk involved fellow passengers on the planes who were seated within two rows in front or back of the child. Some people at the hospital where the child was taken may also have been exposed. About 75 people who might have been exposed to the disease either on the plane or in the hospital have been notified.
This is the second confirmed case of measles this month. Another international traveler who landed in Detroit earlier this month was diagnosed as having the virus. The two cases happened within days of each other.
Measles is a highly contagious virus and it can spread through the air. While characterized by a rash that spreads from the head down the body, symptoms usually begin with a fever, runny nose, red eyes and a cough lasting five to six days. Patients are contagious from about four days before until four days after the rash develops.
Most patients who are infected suffer a relatively mild illness. Unfortunately, the virus can trigger serious complications, such as brain inflammation, which can result in hospitalization and death. The people who are most at-risk for serious complications are children under age 5, people with weak immune systems, and pregnant women.
Infection can be prevented through a two-step vaccination process. Babies should be given their first measles-mumps-rubella vaccination at 12 and 15 months old with a second shot before starting school. If you’ve been vaccinated, you’re 97 percent protected. The vaccination rate for measles in the U.S. is around 90 percent.