The Tennessee Department of Health has confirmed that the case of measles in a visitor from Tennessee that Mississippi health officials are warning some residents about is the same case reported earlier last week in East Tennessee.
Tennessee health officials say they are working to contact over 600 people in the Volunteer state who might have been exposed to the patient.
“There’s no question we’ll have more cases. There’s no question,” said Dr. Michelle Fiscus, the Tennessee Immunization Program Director with the Tennessee Department of Health. “If you are unprotected and you have even more than a few minutes exposure to someone who has measles, there’s a 90-percent chance you’re going to be infected. So there’s no question that we are going to have more cases.”
The unvaccinated Tennessee man traveled through Hattiesburg, Mississippi, on April 9 and 10 and health officials say he may have exposed others to the disease.
“We talk to the individual person and they give us a very detailed timeline and sometimes those are known contacts which makes it easy on public health because then we have names and numbers. In some cases we are looking at security footage in a public space to see who’s come and gone in a certain period of time,” said Fiscus.
They want to clarify things like whether people were in face-to-face contact versus across the room or or coming and leaving from the same air space. From there, it’s a quest to find out how many of those 600 people are immune to measles.
“For the most part I think the folks who may have been exposed are generally concerned and appropriately,” Fiscus said.
Fiscus says she believes she believes all 600 people have been exposed to measles, but to different degrees.
“So depending on what their level of exposure is, and whether or not they’re immune to measles, we have different levels of concern about them. We know that we will get more cases of measles because of what we know from the folks we have spoken to and that’s unfortunate because this is not something we want to see spread across the state,” she said.
Some of those 600 people could be incubating measles for the next 21 days and not know it until even more people have been exposed.
Officials emphasized that the risk is low for those who have been vaccinated.