State health department confirms measles case in New Orleans

NEW ORLEANS — Louisiana state health officials are investigating a confirmed case of measles in New Orleans.

According to a news release from the state Department of Health, the illness was confirmed through laboratory testing in a recent traveler from Europe to New Orleans.

Measles is a highly contagious viral illness that can spread rapidly amongst individuals who are unvaccinated.  In extreme cases, the illness can lead to hospitalization and even death.  The person with measles is now under care in a New Orleans hospital.

The visitor came to New Orleans late last week from the United Kingdom.  He became increasingly ill through the week and was admitted to the hospital over the weekend.  Doctors quickly recognized that the individual may have measles and sent samples to the Office of Public Health laboratory for testing. All samples have come back positive for measles.

The state Office of Public Health is working with the New Orleans City health department to identify and notify those who may have come into contact with this person and to implement measures to help prevent the spread of the virus.

Students in Louisiana are required to have two doses of the MMR vaccine — and the documentation to prove it — before entering elementary school. The result has been that almost all cases of measles in the U.S. have been diagnosed in people who have traveled here. In these cases, as well as the current case, the sick individuals had not been vaccinated for measles.

Since a virus causes measles, it is not treatable with antibiotics. However, the same hygiene practices that help prevent the spread of influenza and other contagious diseases can also help prevent the spread of measles.

According to the CDC, the symptoms of measles generally appear about seven to 14 days after a person is infected.

Measles typically begins with high fever, cough, runny nose, and red, watery eyes. Two or three days after symptoms begin, tiny white spots (Koplik spots) may appear inside the mouth of a patient.

Three to five days after symptoms begin, a rash breaks out. It usually begins as flat red spots that appear on the face at the hairline and spread downward to the neck, trunk, arms, legs, and feet. Small raised bumps may also appear on top of the flat red spots. The spots may become joined together as they spread from the head to the rest of the body. When the rash appears, a person’s fever may spike to more than 104° Fahrenheit.

After a few days, the fever subsides and the rash fades.