Tennessee hospitals prepare for exposure to measles

Tennessee Department of Health prepping hospitals for measles cases

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - We’ve learned new details about Tennessee’s first case of measles in 2019. This comes as the CDC reports the U.S. is on track to break the record number of cases set in 2014.

So far this year, 626 cases have been reported across the country.

An east Tennessee resident contracted the highly contagious virus while traveling outside the U.S. State Department of Health officials could not say if the person received the vaccine for measles, mumps and rubella.

According to the CDC, many of the outbreaks in the country have been linked to Americans returning from countries such as Israel, Ukraine and the Philippines, where large outbreaks are happening.

On Monday, hospitals across the state tuned into an online webinar hosted by the Tennessee Department of Health on how they can prepare for possible measles exposures at their facilities.

The department of health stressed for all health care providers to check staff vaccination records to ensure everyone is up to date and received two MMR vaccines.

“The clock is ticking and there is very limited amount of time,” said Dr. Marion Kainer with the Tennessee Department of Health. “We only have 72 hours from time of first exposure to go and get post exposure prophylactic in to people to prevent them from developing the disease.”

Hospitals have strict protocols to prevent the spread of measles. Right now, any patients who come in with a fever and a cough or a fever and a rash are immediately asked to wear a mask.

If possible, that person is moved away from others to prevent the spread of the virus.

However, keep in mind this virus is highly contagious and can stay active on surfaces and in the air for up to two hours.

It's something Le Bonheur Children's Hospital has dealt with before.

“We had several kids who were exposed to measles and we treated those here in the emergency department with immune globulin or vaccine based on their age,” said Dr. Nicholas Hysmith, Medical Director of Infection Prevention at Le Bonheur Children's Hospital.

Le Bonheur had one confirmed case of measles last year. That child was treated in the emergency department.

The 2016 outbreak in Shelby County is the most recent large outbreak in the state with seven cases of measles reported to the Tennessee Department of Health.

Now, the growing number of cases of measles across the country has Le Bonheur Children's Hospital putting up signs asking patients to alert staff immediately if they have symptoms of a rash and a fever or fever and a cough.

“We have really ingrained that in our staff here at Le Bonheur and our outpatient centers around the city that any patients that come in with those symptoms should get a mask and immediately moved to a room if possible,” Dr. Hysmith said.

In a webinar hosted by the Tennessee Department of Health on Monday, state health officials reminded providers to ensure their staff has received two doses of the Measles, Mumps, and Rubella vaccine.

Doctors says two rounds of the MMR vaccine gives a person 97 percent immunity to the measles.

“Immunity to measles is the most important part of being protected against the virus,” Dr. Hysmith said. “So vaccine is the easiest way to get that and most effective way.”

Measles can stay active on surfaces and in the air for up to two hours.

“You have to ensure the area where the child was or has passed through in the hospital is allowed to be terminally cleaned or allowed to sit for a given amount of time to ensure there are no infected particles of the virus in the air,” Dr. Hysmith said.

These preventative protocols are in place to stop the spread of a highly contagious virus.

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