Officials urge vaccination after 15 measles cases in Michigan

Associated Press
The 15 cases of measles reported in Michigan in 2018, the highest level the state has seen since 1994 when 26 cases were reported.

Lansing — Health officials are urging people to get vaccinated and take other precautions after confirming 15 cases of measles in Michigan this year.

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services gave an update Friday, saying it’s the highest level the state has seen since 1994 when 26 cases were reported.

“The increases in measles cases being reported drives home the importance of being up-to-date on vaccines,” said Dr. Eden Wells, MDHHS' chief medical executive. “Immunizations are the best way to protect our families and communities from the harmful, sometimes deadly consequences of vaccine-preventable diseases like measles.”

Earlier this week, the Oakland County Health Division said two Oakland County residents with the disease arrived on a flight at Detroit Metropolitan Airport in Romulus the evening of Oct. 23.

Michigan’s first case of measles in 2018 was also confirmed in a patient who was at Detroit Metro on March 6. Dr. Russell Faust, Oakland County's medical director, said the county has had three cases of measles this year.

Measles is spread by direct person-to-person contact, and through the air by a contagious person sneezing or coughing, the health department said. The virus can live for up to two hours in the air where the infected person coughed or sneezed.

Health officials note measles is a highly contagious illness and vaccinations are an effective way to prevent it. If exposed, approximately 90 percent of people who have not been vaccinated or previously had measles will develop the disease, Faust said.

"It doesn't do as well on surfaces as it does in the air," Faust said Tuesday. "The airport does not need to sanitize anymore than they usually do. Anyone who may suspect they have measles, its crucial for them to call ahead rather than going to the clinic."

Symptoms of measles usually begin seven to 14 days after exposure but can appear up to 21 days after exposure and may include a high fever; cough; runny nose; red, watery eyes; and tiny white spots on the inner cheeks, gums and roof of the mouth two to three days after symptoms begin.

State officials say that as of early October, 142 cases of measles have been confirmed around the country with most connected to international travel. The number has already surpassed last year's total of 120 cases, according to the CDC

Detroit News Staff Writers Sarah Rahal and Leonard N. Fleming contributed