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Georgia health officials identify 35 in measles exposure
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ATLANTA — Georgia health officials say they have identified 35 people — most of them children — as susceptible to getting measles from the infant who was hospitalized in Atlanta for the disease.

The baby arrived at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta at Egleston with measles on Friday. Officials said the child left the Central Asian nation of Kyrgyzstan on a flight and eventually landed in Atlanta.

Children's Healthcare said Tuesday evening that the infant has been discharged from the hospital.

Public health officials said they have contacted more than 200 people overall in the wake of the arrival of the infant.

Of the 35 considered susceptible to measles, a large number are children, said Dr. Patrick O'Neal, the director of health protection for the Department of Public Health. These people either have not been immunized against the measles or have compromised immune systems, he said Tuesday.

"I'm concerned about the 35 individuals who are most susceptible to the virus,'' he said. ‘'We need to ensure they are offered the protections that are available to prevent the disease."

The infant is the first confirmed case of the measles in Georgia in three years.

Kyrgyzstan, a relatively remote and sparsely populated nation, has had "a significant measles outbreak,'' Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald, the commissioner of public health, said at her agency's board meeting Tuesday.

The Atlanta case is not connected to the recent outbreak of measles that originated at Disneyland in Southern California.

Children's Healthcare issued a statement Monday that says: "Working closely with the Georgia Department of Public Health and the DeKalb County Board of Health, we have identified and are contacting patients, family and staff who may have been exposed to the measles virus so that they can receive necessary preventative care. As always, our primary focus is the safety and well-being of all our patients and their families."

Measles is highly contagious. The respiratory disease, caused by a virus, spreads through the air through coughing and sneezing.

To prevent measles, children (and some adults) should be vaccinated with the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine, the CDC says. Two doses of this vaccine provide 97 percent to 98 percent immunity, the highest rate for any immunization currently offered.

Children should be given the first dose of MMR vaccine at 12 to 15 months of age. The second dose can be given four weeks later, but is usually given before the start of kindergarten at 4 to 6 years of age.

The incubation period of measles is seven to 21 days, O'Neal said.

All 35 people identified by state officials as susceptible to getting measles from the infected child, or their families, have been advised to get an MMR or an IgG test for measles exposure.

"Most of them have gotten it by now,'' O'Neal said, adding that those people are not being quarantined.

Doctors at Children's Healthcare placed the child in an isolation room upon arrival and activated other control measures to limit exposure, WXIA-TV of Atlanta reported Monday.

All U.S. states allow medical exemptions from vaccines, and all but two allow religious exclusions. Nineteen states permit vaccination exemptions for philosophical reasons, but Georgia is not one of them, Atlanta radio station WABE reported recently.

The Department of Public Health said 98 percent of Georgia's enrolled kindergartners have received the recommended vaccinations.


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