With the two confirmed measles cases reported a week ago in Grand Traverse County and the three new cases involving an adult and two children, all not immunized, from Leelanau County identified yesterday, Michigan health officials are reminding the public of the importance of keeping vaccinations up to date.

Image/David Benbennick
Image/David Benbennick

“Although the once common disease is now a rarity in the United States, Measles can spread when it reaches a community where groups of people are unvaccinated,” said Dr. Matthew Davis, Chief Medical Executive with the Michigan Department of Community Health (MDCH). “The progress made here in the U.S. may be threatened by the high incidence of measles elsewhere in the world. To protect against outbreaks and stop the disease from widely spreading in the U.S., we need to succeed in our efforts to keep immunization rates high.”

The cases from Leelanau County reportedly had contact with the Grand Traverse adults.

The Grand Traverse cases were unvaccinated and were exposed to measles during travel in the Philippines. The Philippines is experiencing a very large and ongoing measles outbreak, with more than 50,000 measles cases and more than 100 measles-related deaths reported this year. Many of the cases in the U.S. this year have been traced to travel in or contact with the Philippines.

Symptoms of measles include fever, runny nose, cough, loss of appetite, “pink eye,” and a rash. The rash usually lasts 5–6 days and begins at the hairline, moves to the face and upper neck, and proceeds down the body. A number of complications, especially diarrhea, are possible and measles can result in hospitalization,pneumonia, encephalitis and death. Individuals who develop measles begin to be infectious to others several days before they themselves become sick.

Measles Image/CDC

MDCH officials say the measles vaccine is highly effective and very safe. The first of two routine childhood measles vaccine doses is given at 12 months of age. For international travel, infants as young as 6 months should be vaccinated against measles. The vaccination, or documentation of immunity to measles, is recommended for all persons travelling internationally.