Measles Outbreak 2019: 4 Things You Should Know
As of May 31, 2019, 981 individual cases of measles have been confirmed in 26 states. This is the greatest number of reported cases since the disease was declared eliminated in the year 2000.
This recent spike is particularly alarming, since the measles virus is highly contagious and spreads quickly among those unvaccinated. In some cases, serious complications can result, including pneumonia, encephalitis, and even death.
Learn what you need to know to protect yourself and your loved ones against this latest measles outbreak.
1. Why We’re Seeing a Measles Comeback
The recent measles outbreak can be attributed to travel both to and from the U.S. In many parts of the world, measles is still a common disease. A traveler from another country can bring the disease with them to the U.S., or those traveling to other countries can bring the disease home with them.
Even though all 50 states require vaccinations, many parents have requested exemptions for religious or philosophical objections. With fewer than 95 percent of the population immune, there’s a greater likelihood of measles circulation.
Another potential concern is that the same vaccine commonly recommended to protect against measles, also protects against mumps and rubella. With fewer people receiving the Measles-Mumps-Rubella (MMR) vaccine, there’s a greater likelihood that these other diseases could also make a comeback.
2. How to Protect Against the Measles Virus
Measles is highly contagious and can live on surfaces and in the air for up to two hours after the infected person leaves. Nine out of ten unprotected people exposed to the measles virus will develop measles. If you’ve recently been exposed to the measles virus and are not immune, you should stay home starting four days before the rash develops, and remain home through four days afterward.
Although measles can be serious among all ages, children under 5 and adults over 20 are more susceptible to complications.
- Roughly one in four people in the U.S. who get measles will require hospitalization
- One out of every 20 children with measles will get pneumonia, the most common cause of death from measles in children
- One in every 1,000 people will develop encephalitis (brain swelling), which can lead to brain damage
- Even with proper care, about one to two out of every 1,000 people will die as a result of measles
- For pregnant women, measles poses a risk of premature birth or the possibility of delivering a low birthweight baby
- In rare cases, subacute sclerosis panencephalitis (SSPE), a fatal disease of the nervous system, will develop about seven to ten years after recovery from measles
- Fortunately, for those seeking immunity from measles, the measles vaccine is highly effective and provides long-lasting protection against all strains of the virus.
- To be most effective, the measles vaccine should be given in two doses. For children, the first dose is typically administered at 12 to 15 months of age, with a second dose following at four to six years of age. Children who will be traveling overseas need to receive the measles vaccine even earlier.
- Adults who are not already protected can also be vaccinated. Those considered unprotected include anyone born during or after 1957, who doesn’t have evidence of immunity.
- Evidence of immunity should include at least one of the following:
- Written documentation of a proper vaccination, meaning one or more doses of a measles-containing vaccine for those at low risk (preschoolers and most adults)
- Written documentation of two doses of measles-containing vaccine for school-age children and high-risk adults (college students, healthcare personnel, and international travelers)
- Laboratory evidence of immunity
- A laboratory confirmation of having had measles
- A birthdate before 1957
3. Signs and Symptoms You May Have Measles
The most common measles symptoms are sniffling, coughing, a high fever, rash, and red, watery eyes. The first measles symptoms typically appear about seven to 14 days after infection. Two to three days after developing the first symptoms, tiny white spots may appear in the mouth. In three to five days, a rash usually breaks out, beginning on the face and spreading down the body.
The measles rash usually begins as flat, red spots. Sometimes, small raised bumps will appear on top of these before the spots join together. Once the measles rash appears, the fever may spike to more than 104 degrees Fahrenheit.
For some, sensitivity to light can be another measles symptom. These patients will generally be more comfortable in rooms with low lights, and may even need to wear sunglasses indoors.
Never give aspirin to children or teenagers recovering from the measles. Aspirin has been linked to Reye’s syndrome, a potentially life-threatening condition.
4. Where to Seek Help for Measles
The first thing to do to protect yourself during a measles outbreak is to check your immunity to the disease. If you never received two doses of the measles vaccine as a child, or you do not meet the evidence of immunity requirements listed above, you may want to get vaccinated as soon as possible. Although the vaccine is highly effective against measles, it takes about two weeks for it to become fully effective.
If you’re unsure whether or not you’re immune, a measles titer test administered by a health professional can check for antibodies. If you have doubts, however, it doesn’t hurt to get another dose of the vaccine just to be safe.
If you’d like to receive the vaccine, or need a measles titer test to determine whether or not you’re immune, MD Now’s physician-led medical centers can help keep you healthy. If you suspect you may have already been exposed to the virus and need measles treatment, please call ahead before visiting one of our clinics. We’ll make special arrangements to ensure you get the measles treatment you need, without the risk of infecting other patients.
MD Now’s comprehensive, state-of-the-art facilities are open convenient hours, throughout Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach, and Indian River counties. Our services are a convenient alternative to the typical long wait time for a doctor’s appointment or sitting for hours in an ER waiting room.
Walk-ins are welcome, and all major insurance plans are accepted. To save time, you can check in online at www.MDNow.com.