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6 measles cases confirmed in Memphis area

Six people have been diagnosed with measles in the past few days in the Memphis area. That's more cases than the whole country has seen in all of 2016 to date.

The cases were confirmed by the Shelby County Health Department, which is currently in "outbreak mode," CBS affiliate WREG reports.

Officials say the cases are all over the county and don't seem connected. "I would not be at all surprised if we do have some more cases," Dr. Helen Morrow, Chief Medical Officer of the Shelby County Health Department, said.

Officials are reaching out to all of the people who may have come in contact with the patients during their infectious periods, including a church nursery where six parents dropped off their children while they attended services this past Sunday.

"They asked us who was in the classroom at the same time and we gave the Department of Health those names," said Reverend David Atkinson of the Collierville United Methodist Church told WREG.

The church took all the steps it could, from cleaning to notifying parents, he said, following the CDC and Health Department's lead.

Measles is a highly contagious, vaccine-preventable viral infection that starts with a high fever, runny nose, cough and red eyes, followed a few days later by a rash that starts on the head and gradually moves down the body.

The rash illness lasts about a week. It is usually a relatively mild illness, but can result in complications, including pneumonia or inflammation of the brain, that require hospitalization.

Measles can spread easily through the air to people who are not vaccinated or who have not had the illness before. People who contract the measles virus can spread the infection for four days before developing a rash and for four days after the rash starts.

Morrow said more than 90 percent of students in Shelby County schools received the measles vaccinations.

Doctors are urging people to get themselves -- and their children -- vaccinated if they have not done so already. The first shot alone is 93 percent effective in stopping measles.

"If there's a question, or gap in your knowledge, you should talk to your primary care physician. There's a simple blood test," Dr. Jeff Mullins of MidSouth Family Medicine said.

There have been nine previous cases of measles in the entire state of Tennessee in the past 12 years.

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