The state of Iowa has reported its first measles case since 2011, the state public health department said Monday.
The announcement comes as federal officials have reported more outbreaks in an already record-breaking number of measles cases across the country, a worrying trend for a disease that was believed to have been eliminated two decades ago.
A northeastern Iowan was confirmed to be infected with measles over the weekend, according to a news release from the Iowa Department of Public Health. Officials said the individual was unvaccinated and recently had returned to the state from Israel, where a measles outbreak has occurred.
Measles is an illness required by law to be reported to the state public health department, which in turn investigates the case to assess any chance of a larger outbreak.
There is no threat to public health at this time, Iowa officials stated, and the individual is cooperating with their investigation.
“For the case we’re investigating now, we’re working with people who were potentially exposed and we have not identified anything like the large-scale exposures that you’re hearing about in some other places,” said Dr. Caitlin Pedati, Iowa Department of Public Health medical director and state epidemiologist.
Measles is a highly contagious and occasionally deadly disease that includes symptoms of inflamed eyes, fever and a red, blotchy skin rash.
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Pedati said the disease can move quickly through a population, and can have severe consequences. Every one in 1,000 infected people will have brain inflammation and about one to two in 1,000 will die due to a neurological or respiratory complication, she said.
“Measles is a very contagious illness,” Pedati said. “That’s why we want people to really take advantage of the good protection you can get with vaccinations. It’s the very best way to protect yourself from getting sick with measles.”
The number of measles cases in the United States in 2019 has reached 555 cases — a record high in the past five years, according to federal health officials.
Ninety of those cases occurred during the second week of April, with 20 states reporting incidents, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The six current outbreaks in California, New Jersey, New York and Washington state are linked to travelers who brought measles back from other countries, where large outbreaks of measles are occurring, the CDC said.
New York City, for example, as of April 11 had reported 229 cases this year, accounting for more than one-third of the total numbers of cases tallied nationwide this year. New York City officials last week declared a public health emergency and ordered mandatory measles vaccinations in an attempt to halt the outbreak among ultra Orthodox Jews in Brooklyn, putting in place the broadest vaccination order in the United States in nearly three decades.
In 2000, federal health officials declared they had rid the country of measles.
Iowa Department of Public Health officials, meanwhile, are encouraging Iowans to make sure their vaccinations are up to date.
The CDC recommends doses of the MMR vaccine against measles, mumps and rubella at age 12 to 15 months and at four to six years old. If an individual received the two doses at that time, the vaccine is 97 percent effective at building lifelong immunity, health experts say.
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“As long as you’ve adhered to that CDC-recommended schedule, you’re in good shape,” the department’s Pedati said. “There is no recommendation currently for any kind of booster for adults.”
If individuals are unsure if they’ve received the vaccine or if the recommendations have changed during their lifetime, they are encouraged to contact their health care provider.
In some cases, individuals may be recommended for another vaccine.
“There’s no harm in providing someone with an extra MMR,” Pedati said.
The Washington Post contributed to this article.
Here are some the things to know about measles, a highly contagious disease reaching record-breaking numbers across the country, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Signs and symptoms
Measles symptoms typically include:
• Runny nose
• Red, watery eyes
• Tiny white spots inside the mouth, which appear two or three days after symptoms begin
• Three to five days after symptoms begin, a rash will break out. It usually begins on the face at the hairline, and spreads downward to the neck, torso, legs and feet.
Measles is a virus that lives in the nose and throat mucus of an infected person, and is spread to others through coughing and sneezing.
It can live for up to two hours in an airspace where the infected person has coughed or sneezed.
Measles is so contagious that up to 90 percent of the people close to an infected individual, but who are not immune, will become infected.
Measles can be serious for all age groups. Severe complications include:
• As many as one of every 20 infected children also will contract pneumonia
• About one child out of every 1,000 infected with measles will develop encephalitis, or swelling of the brain
• About one or two for every 1,000 infected children will die from measles.
Long-term complications include subacute sclerosing panencephalitis, or SSPE — a very rare, but fatal disease of the central nervous system that results from a measles virus infection acquired earlier in life. It typically develops seven to 10 years after infection, even if the person has fully recovered from the illness.
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