The Georgia Department of Public Health is urging Georgians to get vaccinated after three new cases of measles were confirmed in the metro Atlanta area last week.
All three cases were diagnosed in members of one family, none of whom were vaccinated.
Three Georgians were diagnosed with the illness in January, bringing the total number of cases statewide to six.
Although the risk of becoming sick is low, the DPH is notifying people who may have been exposed to the virus and may be at increased risk for developing measles.
Measles is a highly contagious, serious respiratory disease. Health officials say it is particularly dangerous for infants who cannot be immunized until they are at least 12 months old and young children who have only received one dose of measles vaccine.
“Measles can be prevented through vaccination,” said Dr. Cherie Drenzek, chief science officer and state epidemiologist, Georgia Department of Public Health. “Keeping immunization levels high is critical to preventing outbreaks or sustained transmission of measles in Georgia. It also provides herd immunity for those who cannot be vaccinated.”
Research has proved two doses of MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccine are about 97 percent effective at preventing measles and one dose is about 93 percent effective.
Measles spreads when an infected person breathes, coughs, or sneezes and respiratory droplets travel through the air. Measles virus can live in the air and on surfaces for two to three hours. Almost everyone who has not been vaccinated will get measles if they are exposed to the virus.
• Fever, which can be very high.
• Cough, runny nose and red eyes.
• Tiny white spots on the inner lining of the cheek, also called Koplik’s spots.
• Rash of tiny, red spots that starts at the head and spreads to the rest of the body. Spots
may become joined together as they spread.
Health officials say people with symptoms of measles should contact their health care providers immediately but they should not go to doctor’s offices, hospitals or public health clinics without first calling to warn about any symptoms. Health care providers who suspect measles in a patient should notify public health immediately.
Nationwide, nearly 700 cases have been confirmed in 22 states, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC issued a report Wednesday calling the outbreak the worst since 2000, when the illness was considered eliminated in the U.S.
"The longer these outbreaks continue, the greater the chance measles will again get a sustained foothold in the United States," the CDC said.
For more information about measles, visit www.cdc.gov/measles .