State health officials declared a “public health emergency” Tuesday after a test confirmed a case of measles in an unvaccinated Dallas County baby who apparently picked up the disease in India.
They said people who might have been exposed included passengers on an Americans Airline flight from Chicago to Des Moines May 11 and people who were at Mercy Medical Center or a Mercy pediatric clinic in downtown Des Moines May 14.
Dr. Patricia Quinlisk, medical director for the Iowa Department of Public Health, said many Americans falsely recall measles as a benign childhood illness. “I get asked by medical students, ‘Which disease are you most afraid of?’ And they expect me to say Ebola or SARS or something like that – but, it’s measles,” she said. “I don’t think people understand how bad it can be, how many people can get seriously ill and, unfortunately, how many people can die from this disease. It’s bad and it’s probably the most spreadable disease we have in our society.”
Dr. Asha Madia, a Mercy pediatrician, said the patient is an 8-month-old boy who had a fever, a rash and a mild eye infection. He has recovered. She said the boy was not vaccinated because such vaccinations generally are not given before age 1. But she said his family believes in vaccinations and had immunized the boy’s older sibling.
So this is unique in that the index case isn’t from a family who has eschewed vaccination (unlike this case in 2004), but in a child who was unvaccinated nevertheless due to his age. This is one reason the CDC just last month recommended the MMR vaccine in infants who would be traveling abroad, even if they are below the traditionally recommended age.
Story still developing, but for now it appears that this is the only case recognized. However, as Maryn recently pointed out, *any* measles outbreak isn’t cheap, due to the diligent surveillance that must be undertaken to make sure no one else comes down with the infection. Full information available here from the Iowa Department of Public Health.