Just a few years ago, measles was a relatively uncommon disease in the United States. In fact, there were only 86 cases in 2016 in America, but a new outbreak in the Midwest proves just how fast the dangerous disease can spread. At least 18 total measles cases have now been confirmed in Oakland County since March 13 of this year, mostly children who were not vaccinated against it. And it’s not just kids who are at risk: Adults might also contract the disease if they weren’t vaccinated as a child or didn’t get a second dose of the vaccine.
The lesson here is the measles is still a contagious disease to contend with that hasn’t been eradicated. To stay safe, here’s what you need to know about preventing measles:
Symptoms Don’t Show Up Immediately
Measles, an infection caused by a virus, results in a cough, runny nose, inflamed eyes, sore throat, fever and red, blotchy rash. For the first few days after getting measles, there are no signs or symptoms. And measles is highly contagious (it can be transmitted in the air through coughs and sneezes), which means people are out doing their usual activities and possibly infecting others before they know they’re sick. Measles can lead to pneumonia, ear infections and bronchitis (and in children, it can cause brain damage and death).
The Oakland County Health Division also advises:
• If symptoms develop, do not visit your doctor or emergency room unless you call ahead so they can take precautions to prevent exposure to other individuals.
• Stay home if you are sick and don’t allow visitors in your home as measles is highly contagious.
• Watch for symptoms for 21 days after potential exposure
The Importance of Being Vaccinated
There are a number of risk factors that can contribute to the spread of measles, such as being unvaccinated, traveling internationally (measles is more common in other countries) or having a vitamin A deficiency. The most important thing you can do is get the measles vaccine. It’s often referred to as MMR (it stands for measles, mumps and rubella), and one dose is about 93 percent effective at protecting against measles.
It is important to note that pregnant women who contract measles may have preterm birth and/or low birthweight babies. The Measles, Mumps, Rubella (MMR) vaccine cannot be given to pregnant women or children less than 1 year old, so they should avoid places of known measles exposure. Click here to see the list of exposure locations in Oakland County.
Who needs the vaccine?
- Children: The Centers for Disease Control recommends that children get two doses of the MMR vaccine—the first between 12 and 15 months and the second at four to six years old.
- Adults: If you were born in 1956 or earlier, you are likely protected against measles (the vaccine didn’t come out until 1963, so you were exposed naturally to multiple epidemics). If you were born in 1957 or later, you need at least a single dose of the vaccine. A simple blood test can tell if you were vaccinated or not as a child.
- Anyone traveling abroad or who works in schools or health care settings: You need to make sure you’ve had a second dose of the vaccine. If you aren’t sure whether you’ve gotten the second one, the safest thing is to get it anyway (it won’t harm you if you don’t need it).
Measles can be treated in a variety of ways. A post-exposure vaccination can be given to those exposed to the virus within 72-hours and antibiotics and fever reduction medication can also help. If you think you might have been exposed, call your doctor immediately.
For more information on how vaccines can keep you and your family safe, check out these other blogs:
- Test Your Knowledge: How Much Do You Know About Immunizations?
- What You Need to Know About Bacterial Meningitis
- Does Your Child Need a Second Dose of the Flu Vaccine?
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