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Measles cases reported close by

Measles cases have officially hit North Mississippi, but Oxford appears to be clear.

According to Mississippi Department of Public Health spokeswoman Liz Sharlot, three people are being monitored this week and four people have been cleared.

Sharlot said the three who are at risk are under quarantine at home, and all cases are in North Mississippi with possible links back to exposure in Shelby County, Tennessee.

Dr. Will Dabbs with Urgent Care Clinic of Oxford said he has not seen any cases at the clinic, but “the identified cases were relatively close by.”

Dabbs said measles were actually declared eradicated in the U.S. in 2000, despite periodic outbreaks.

“Around the world there are roughly 20 million new cases of measles as well as 146,000 deaths each year,” he said. “Measles is also called Rubeola and it is one of the most contagious viral infections known to medicine. In the absence of immunization, 90 percent of those associating with a single infected patient will develop measles.

Dabbs said the good news is most area residents have been vaccinated against the deadly virus.

“It seems to me that most folks hereabouts are properly vaccinated,” he said. “While Mississippi is unfairly denigrated for a lot of different things, we actually typically have the highest vaccination rates of any state in the union. For the last year for which we have data, Mississippi reported a 99.9 percent vaccination rate for the MMR vaccine.”

Dabbs said if someone does happen to contract a case of measles, either from foreign overseas exposure or from a strain the vaccine didn’t cover, most patients do get over it without complications. However, about 1 in 1,000 will develop encephalitis, which can cause brain damage.

Dabbs said the early onset of measles can appear to be other illnesses and diseases, but if someone has a severe fever or an odd rash, along with a cough, runny nose, red eyes and a sore throat, it’s time to get to the doctor.

“They taught us in medical school to look for the three C’s — cough, conjunctivitis (red, irritated eyes) and coryza (inflamed mucous membranes in the nose),” Dabbs said. “The measles also usually produces Koplik’s spots. These are white irritated areas on the inside of the mouth. After this initial presentation there is typically a characteristic red rash that appears around 14 days after initial exposure. The rash typically starts at the head then moves to the trunk and then the limbs. The disease is contagious from four days before to four days after the rash.”

DID YOU KNOW?

In the movie “I am Legend,” the mutated virus that killed most everybody on the planet and changed everybody else into zombies was a form of the measles virus. According to the back story, researchers had genetically engineered the measles virus as a cure for cancer. They picked measles because it was so extraordinarily contagious. The writers for the movie used real numbers in their screenplay and estimated a roughly 90 percent infection rate from the virus.