St. Clair County Infant Has First Case of Measles in Alabama

This baby was hospitalized with the measles in the Philippines. (Source: CDC)

Alabama has its first confirmed case of measles.

An infant in St. Clair County has been confirmed as having measles, Dr. Scott Harris, state health officer, said in a press conference this morning.

The infant is less than a year old and so was not old enough to be vaccinated.

Harris said the Alabama Department of Public Health is continuing to investigate and test to make sure the measles diagnosis is accurate and to define the risks of exposure for others. He said more information would be available in the next 24 hours to help people determine whether they might have been exposed and advise them on the next steps they should take.

The infant, who did not attend day care, was contagious between April 23 and May 1, Harris said. The doctor who treated the baby advised the family to self-quarantine.

Alabama is now one of 23 states where measles has been reported. The country has been battling measles outbreaks for months, with more than 700 reported cases. The highest concentrations of cases have been in Washington state and New York.

The outbreaks are believed to have been started by unvaccinated people who traveled outside of the country and then went home and came into contact with people in communities where there were many unvaccinated people, Harris said.

The St. Clair infant has not traveled outside of the state.

Measles is among the most contagious diseases known to man. Once an infected person coughs or sneezes, the virus can be alive in the air or on surfaces for two hours, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Up to 90% of people who come into contact with an infected person will contract the disease if they don’t already have immunity to it.

Harris said the best protection is to be vaccinated. People born in 1956 or earlier are considered to be immune from the disease, because it is likely they have been exposed to measles already. For people born in 1957 or later, two doses of the vaccine or more are needed to confer immunity. People who can’t confirm whether they have had the vaccine should get an additional dose, Harris said.

He said the vaccine is widely available and covered by most insurances.

Measles starts with a fever as high as 105 degrees, Harris said. Within a few days, those infected may begin to have congestion, a cough and red, irritated eyes. They then develop small, grayish-white spots in their mouths. A few days later, the signature rash arrives.

Harris said that if you suspect you might have measles, call your doctor first and arrange to be seen rather than going into a waiting room.