Health officials are screening people who came into contact with a man who contracted measles (search), the first case of the disease in Wisconsin since 1996.
The state Department of Health and Family Services said Tuesday lab tests have confirmed the man has measles, which he likely contracted on a recent trip to Germany.
State health officer Herb Bostrom said the disease has been eliminated from Wisconsin, and the few cases contracted since 1996 were in travelers.
"It is important to remember that measles commonly occurs in many parts of the world and contact with the disease is only a plane ride away," Bostrom said in written statement. "This case of measles demonstrates yet again the importance of maintaining high immunization levels, particularly among all children and the health care providers who come in contact with them."
Bostrom said measles is a serious illness, and outbreaks at Wisconsin day care centers as recently as the 1980s caused several deaths.
It starts eight to 12 days after exposure with cold-like symptoms, including a cough, runny nose, high temperature and red, watery eyes. By the second day, victims develop a red blotchy rash on the hairline that spreads down the body to the arms and legs. It typically lasts five to six days.
Complications of measles include ear infections, pneumonia, encephalitis (search), and in rare cases, death. There is no treatment, but the disease can be prevented by a vaccine. Health officials recommend all children receive a measles-mumps-rubella vaccine (search) twice, first at 12-15 months of age, and then again when they start school.
Bostrom said the vaccine is also recommended for anyone born after 1968 who has not had it.
Measles is easily and quickly transmitted in the air through coughing or sneezing and can affect anyone who has not previously had the disease or been vaccinated against it.
The World Health Organization reports 8 percent of countries worldwide do not provide measles vaccine.
Health officials declined to reveal any more details about the infected man, who is still ill, Bostrom said.