(CNN) — Georgia has its first confirmed case of measles since 2012, the state’s Health Department said Monday.
Health officials are working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention “to identify anyone who may have been exposed to the patient and to prevent further spread of measles,” the statement said.
Measles is a serious and highly contagious respiratory disease that spreads when a person breathes, coughs or sneezes, and droplets travel through the air. The disease is especially dangerous for infants, who cannot receive vaccines until they are at least 6 months old. Young children are also particularly vulnerable in cases in which they have received only one dose of measles vaccine.
Symptoms include fever, cough, runny nose and red eyes, tiny white spots on the inner lining of the cheek and a rash with tiny red spots that starts at the head and spreads. Though there’s no cure for measles, it can be prevented with the MMR vaccine, which is 97% effective, according to medical professionals.
“Keeping immunization levels high is critical to preventing outbreaks or sustained transmission in Georgia,” said Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald, commissioner of the Georgia Department of Public Health. “More than 98 percent of children heading into kindergarten in our state have received all school required vaccines, which includes two doses of measles vaccine.”
Measles was declared eliminated in the United States in 2000, but a recent outbreak has been traced to Disneyland in California.
Since January 1, at least 110 confirmed measles cases have been reported in 16 states and the District of Columbia, according to the CDC and health departments in four of those states, CNN reported Saturday.
That’s a notably high number of cases to be confirmed within a five-week period, considering the number of 2014 U.S. cases — 644 — was the highest in one year since 2000.
California has reported 103 cases since mid-December, dozens of which are not counted in the nationwide 2015 total because they were confirmed before New Year’s Day.
Many of the California cases, 32, are in Orange County, home to Disneyland, where a measles outbreak began.
The Georgia case is unrelated to that outbreak, the Health Department said Monday.