A single case of measles has Tennessee health officials on their guard. The illness comes amid a national scare related to decreased vaccination rates.
It's not all that unusual for a case of measles to pop up in the state. There have been 15 over the last decade. But state epidemiologist Tim Jones says it's always a big deal — more so now.
"Obviously the national context of having hundreds of cases and in 20 states, and seeing continued spread, raises the angst here," Jones says.
Jones says the arrival of measles was almost inevitable and that it's very likely additional cases will surface.
The state Health Department won't release identifying information other than to say the patient is in East Tennessee. Jones says those who've been in contact with this person probably already know it because they've been personally interviewed by authorities.
Measles is highly contagious, though only for those who haven't been vaccinated, which usually occurs during childhood. Tennessee's vaccination rate is higher than many other states, but health authorities say it's been dropping. They're launching a $400,000 media campaign in May to further boost vaccination rates.
"The time for prevention is right now," Neighborhood Health CEO Brian Haile said in a statement. The community clinics are "redoubling" efforts to vaccinate children, who get a first dose around year 1 and a second at 6 years of age. "We will make sure you get care, regardless of your ability to pay or whether you have insurance."