A single case of measles in an unvaccinated teenager from the Kenai Peninsula has been confirmed.

The Alaska Department of Health and Social Services said in a release on Tuesday a teen who recently traveled out of state to Arizona through Seattle, Washington was diagnosed. This makes Alaska the 29th state to confirm a case in 2019.

A DHSS lab in Fairbanks made the diagnosis 5:30 p.m. Tuesday. The release states only people who may have been exposed and are not already immune to measles from vaccines or from having the disease in the past are at immediate risk.

"We're very concerned," Leslie Felts, a nurse manager with Kenai Peninsula Public Health said. "It’s a serious illness, your just very, very ill, and of course there can be some serious side effects. Serious ear infections, pneumonia, it can cause death as well."

Some people might have been exposed to measles through this confirmed case. Places where people may have been exposed include:

  • Froso's Family Dining in Soldotna from July 8-9 and July 11-13
  • Urgent Care of Soldotna on July 14
  • Central Peninsula Hospital on July 14

The teen who was diagnosed has been placed in isolation at home and is recovering. Officials with DHSS and Kenai Public Health Center nurses have notified the restaurant and health care personnel at the facilities of the confirmed measles case.

"It can stay into a room for up to two hours which is why it is so contagious," Tami Marsters, a public health nurse, said.

Epidemiologists, or investigators who search for the cause of disease and determine how to stop it from spreading, with DHSS have also contacted Arizona and Washington health officials.

This is not the first case of measles in Alaska.

Back in 2015 measles was diagnosed late in a patient from Fairbanks, which happened after nearly 15 years without any measles cases. If anyone is worried, there are some measures to take in preventing the disease from spreading. 

The MMR (measles-mumps-rubella) vaccine is the best defense against measles and will also help prevent the disease from spreading further in Alaska. The MMR vaccine is considered safe as well as highly effective. A booster shot is not needed for adults who were effectively vaccinated as children. It usually takes 7-21 days after exposure for signs of measles to appear.

"The people that we are most concerned about are those that are immune compromised that can’t get the shots and the little babies," Marsters said. "That's probably the biggest message that I would like to get out to the whole world, just stay home if your sick."

Symptoms of measles include a high fever, which can be as high as 105 degrees Fahrenheit; cough; runny nose; red eyes and sore throat. A rash follows and usually starts on the face before it spreads to the rest of the body.

If you or your family is concerned you might have been exposed, a list of exposure locations, dates, times and recommendations for adults and children is available on the DHSS website.

Editor's note: This story has been updated from its original version to include interviews with nurses in the area.

Scott Gross contributed information to this story.

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