Four people have contracted measles in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, which hardly constitutes and outbreak, but what has the public health officials at the Milwaukee Health Department, concerned, is that one of the four people with measles has come into contact with at least 150 people before being contained.
One Milwaukee County Health Department official, Paul Biedrzycki, says, "This is very serious. If we don't control the outbreak now we could move from tens of cases to hundreds of cases very quickly."
The four people contained are a 37-year-old man, a 23-month-old girl and two boys, ages 5 months and 1 year.
12 children from the Kingdom Care Child Center, where the 23-month-old attended, have had their parents told to keep them home until April 18, 2008 because they came in contact with the toddler and to prevent the measles from spreading.
Health officials believe they have limited exposure, but are still being cautious because of the people that came into contact with those infected.
Measles is a highly contagious respiratory infection that can spread by coughing or sneezing but it is preventable with a vaccine.
According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), the symptoms of measles include a red, blotchy rash, high fever, runny nose and watery eyes. The virus is contagious four days before the rash appears until four days after it.
Health department spokeswoman Raquel Filmanowicz said many families were showing up at two clinics on Saturday hoping to get vaccinated. Originally the department scheduled one clinic for Saturday on the city's south side, but the department added one on the north side due to expected high demand.Health officials, as a precaution, offered those immunizations for free. The Milwaukee Health Department says one immunization for measles is 95 percent effective.
To understand the concern of the health officials, one has to understand that 90 percent of those in contact with an infected person will also become infected.
Also according to the CDC, 20 percent of those that contract measles develop complications, the two most common of which are ear infections and pneumonia and those types of complications are most common is children under 5 or adults over 20.
About 20% of measles cases develop one or more complications, including pneumonia, which is the complication that is most often the cause of death in young children. Ear infections occur in about 1 in 10 measles cases and permanent loss of hearing can result. Diarrhea is reported in about 8% of cases.
Even in previously healthy children, measles can be a serious illness requiring hospitalization. For about 1-2 children per 1,000 children infected with measles, the disease is fatal. Measles can cause a brain infection (encephalitis) which can result in subsequent mentalimpairment or deafness. This complication occurs within two weeks of the onset of rash and is diagnosed in about one in 1,000 cases of measles.
Measles remains a leading cause of preventable death and illness worldwide.
That last measles outbreak happened in 1989-1990 and infected 1,011 people in Milwaukee, causing the death of three. The measles information hotline for Milwaukee has received more than 1,800 calls in the past two days.
Those wanting immunizations should contact their local public health office or the Milwaukee Health Department hotline at (414) 286-3616.