HUNTSVILLE, Ala – Measles cases have seen a 78 percent increase across the country in the last week alone. Doctors have confirmed 704 cases of the disease in the United States.
Last week, the Alabama Department of Public Health announced a person with measles traveled through parts of the state, even stopping at a restaurant in Fort Payne.
While it’s been more than 10 years since a case of measles has been confirmed in Alabama, doctors for the Department of Public Health frequently investigate suspected cases.
“Last year we received about 211 reports of suspected measles cases,” said Dr. Karens Landers with the Department of Public Health.
The outbreak across the country means there is a higher likelihood of one of those suspected cases being confirmed. Landers visited doctors in Fort Payne where there was a potential measles exposure.
“Ensuring that we had the highest possible rates of the vaccine in children,” she said.
She says there has been an increase in the number of children who are unvaccinated in the state. There is a plan in place to address what to do if a student at a public school system is diagnosed with measles. An unvaccinated student in that system would be required to stay home.
“Until that child either were vaccinated or the incubation period had passed,” she said.
Hospitals are already prepared to treat the disease.
“It’s all over the neighboring states so it’s a good chance we’re going to see it here,” said Ali Hassoun with Huntsville Hospital.
He says it’s important to keep measles patients from being able to spread the virus.
“We have preparation where any patient come up with suspected measles we put them in our isolation…Where we reduce that transmission,” he said.
And if a case is confirmed, it would immediately be reported to the health department.
Doctors are urging people to make sure their MMR vaccines are up-to-date. If they are not, they’re asking people to get vaccinated.