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State officials confirm measles in DTW traveler

Karen Bouffard and Charles E. Ramirez
The Detroit News

Michigan’s first case of measles in 2018 was confirmed in a patient who was at Detroit Metropolitan Airport on March 6 and may have exposed other travelers.

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services is asking residents to be on the lookout for symptoms of the disease, which is highly contagious but easily preventable by vaccination. The illness has a 10-day to 12-day incubation period.

The traveler, who has been hospitalized and is recovering, was in customs or baggage claim in the airport’s North Terminal between 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. on March 6. The patient, identified only as a Washtenaw County resident, was contagious upon returning to Michigan from travel abroad, according to health officials.

People who think they may have been exposed and are experiencing symptoms should contact their primary care doctors, health officials said.

Initial symptoms include a high fever, red eyes, cough, runny nose, eye sensitivity, followed by a red, raised body rash. Individuals may be contagious for a few days before they show symptoms, which increase the potential of exposing others to the infection.

Measles cases have increased nationwide in recent years, due in part to declining vaccination rates, said Lynn Sutfin, spokeswoman for the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.

“Last year there were 118 cases across the country, (and) in Michigan we had two,” Sutfin said Wednesday. “Between 2001 and 2012, there were about 60 per year across the country, so we have seen it increase every year.

Childhood immunizations have become a contentious issue as some parents fear they may lead to autism in children — a theory that has been debunked by mainstream scientists.

Oakland County mother Rebecca Bredow last year was sentenced to seven days in jail for disobeying a court order to vaccinate her son. Circuit Court Judge Karen McDonald also reduced the mother’s custody rights.

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Institute of Medicine have concluded there is no relationship between vaccines and autism rates in children.

Increased international travel also contributes to the spread of measles, Sutfin noted.

“The world has become a small place, and lots of (countries) have measles, so it becomes an issue across the country,” she said.

Health officials recommend that infants as young as 6 months should be vaccinated against measles if they’re traveling abroad. Measles vaccine, or other acceptable documentation of immunity to measles, is recommended for all persons traveling internationally.

“This case underscores the importance of following vaccine recommendations and being up-to-date on vaccines,” Chief Medical Executive Dr. Eden Wells said in a statement. “Immunizations are the best way to protect our families and communities from the harmful, sometimes deadly consequences of vaccine-preventable diseases like measles.

“If you have questions about a child’s vaccination status or your own vaccination history, talk to your doctor right away to ensure your family has optimal protection.”

Wells is in court Wednesday in her preliminary exam for involuntary manslaughter and misconduct in office charges related to her handling of the Flint water crisis.