Kentucky health officials reported Friday on a confirmed measles case in an unvaccinated child living in the region served by the Barren River District Health Department.

Measles/CDC
Measles/CDC

The child recently traveled out of the country to an area where measles is endemic. The name of the country was not disclosed.

The Kentucky Department for Public Health (DPH) says the child did not become infectious until returning to Kentucky. Public exposure is believed to be very limited and public health officials are in the process of notifying individuals who came into contact with the child during the infectious period.

“Measles is a highly contagious illness so it is extremely important that close contacts are notified,” said DPH Commissioner Dr. Jeff Howard. “We are working diligently, along with our local health department and CDC colleagues, to make sure contacts are aware of this potential case, are getting any necessary medical care and aren’t spreading the illness to others. We cannot stress enough the importance of vaccination. Measles, among many other vaccine-preventable diseases, is an extremely dangerous illness, especially for small children.”

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Measles is a serious, highly contagious respiratory illness caused by the rubeola virus. It is the most deadly of all childhood rash/fever illnesses, but is preventable with vaccine. Symptoms include fever, cough, runny nose, red eyes for a few days followed by rash. Complications from measles, which can range from an ear infection to encephalitis, are of great concern to public health practitioners.

CDC recommends all children get two doses of MMR vaccine, starting with the first dose at 12- through 15-months of age, and the second dose at 4 through 6 years of age. One dose of measles vaccine is about 93% effective at preventing measles if exposed to the virus. Two doses are about 97% effective. Measles vaccine does not cause measles illness.

The CDC reports that 101 individual cases of measles have been confirmed in 10 states from Jan. 1 to Feb. 7 this year. The states that have reported cases to CDC are California, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Illinois, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Texas, and Washington.

372 measles cases were reported in total in 2018.