An infant diagnosed with measles, the first confirmed case in Georgia since 2012, received care at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta (CHOA) at Egleston on Emory’s campus. The hospital released the infant last Tuesday, Feb. 10.
The infant began showing symptoms on a flight after taking off from Kyrgyzstan and heading towards Atlanta and was diagnosed after his arrival to the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.
The infant had traveled through Istanbul and Chicago for connecting flights before arriving finally in Atlanta on Feb. 4. He may have infected over 300 people during his trip, 30 of which were unvaccinated for the disease, according to 11Alive news.
DeKalb County health officials took the infant under their care before transferring him to CHOA at Egleston two days later. The infant, though less than one year old, went through treatment successfully, according to WSB-TV.
11Alive news labeled the disease as “deported” since the child contracted the disease internationally rather than within the borders of the United States.
Though measles may have been largely eradicated from the United States, countries such as Angola, Ethiopia, Indonesia and the Philippines, among others, battle measles profusely, according to the World Health Organization’s website.
CHOA refrained from further disclosing details of the case due to patient confidentiality.
Measles, the highly contagious viral disease, is airborne and can be spread through contact with an infected individual who may be sneezing and coughing, allowing infected droplets to travel through the air.
The virus may then remain active in the air or on surfaces for two or three hours. If not vaccinated, getting infected is extremely probable, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Young children are especially vulnerable due to their limited immunity and incomplete vaccination for the disease, the CDC website states.
Both CHOA and the CDC emphasize the importance of vaccinations in response to recent outbreaks in multiple states, caused by outbreaks such as last month’s incident in Disneyland, where at least 51 cases of measles have been reported in the California theme park, according to CNN.
Measles can be easily prevented through two doses of the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine. Health officials recommend the first dose be administered at 12-15 months followed by the second dose at 4-6 years, according to CHOA’s website.
However, there is no link between the outbreak in Disneyland and the infant’s contraction of measles, according to Carrie Moyer, a member of CHOA’s public relations staff.
To date, the health care center has been working with Georgia’s Department of Public Health and the DeKalb County Board of Health to find and identify any patients and staff who might have been exposed to the virus, especially due to its contagious nature, according to Moyer.
More may have been infected before the flight due to the four-day incubation period before symptom visibility, Moyer said.
The Georgia Department of Public Health also encourages reporting any and all cases so they can take appropriate steps to intervene and alleviate the problem, according to its website.
The CDC has also been trying to contact those on the flight to alert them of the potential risk of measles, but contacting over 300 people discreetly has been taking some time, according to WSB-TV. However, treatment is available for those already infected, according to the CDC.
Regardless, Moyer remarked that Georgia has been working to ensure that any individual affected could receive preventative care if necessary.
— By Anwesha Guha, Contributing Writer