Understanding and Preventing Measles

Cases of measles still continue to be identified in the United States. Measles is a highly contagious vaccine preventable disease.

Measles usually begins with a mild fever accompanied by a cough, runny nose, and conjunctivitis. Approximately three days after these symptoms appear Koplik’s spots may appear. These spots are clusters of blue/ white lesions located on the buccal mucosa (mucus membrane of the cheek). Following this the person may spike a fever as high as 104-105 degrees. Also at this time, a red blotchy rash appears, beginning on the face along the hairline and behind the ears. The rash may be slightly itchy and will move rapidly down to the chest, back, and finally to the legs and feet. The rash fades in the same sequence it appeared in about one week. The maculopapular rash has large plat blotches that often flow into one another.

If measles is suspected please call your family physician immediately as it is highly contagious and certain measures need to be followed to prevent the spread of the virus.

The incubation period for measles is about 7-21 days. The primary symptoms begin 8-12 days after exposure (day 0) and rash onset is typically 14 days (range 7-21 days) after exposure.
Exposure to Measles
Anyone who has shared the same airspace with a person infected with measles (during the 4 days prior through the 4 days after their rash). Example, being in the same classroom, home, airplane, or clinic waiting room where a person with the measles has been present up to 2 hours prior to you being in the area.
There has been no minimum time period established for exposure, but it is assumed that a longer exposure does increase the risk of infection.
 Prevention and Immunity
The MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella) vaccination is administered to children. The first dose is usually given at the age of 1 year, and the second does between the ages of 4 to 6 years old (the second dose is required prior to starting school). The vaccine is administered via injection. Although measles was thought to be eliminated from the U.S. , there has been a rise in outbreaks across of U.S. created by the higher number of parents who for various reasons have refused to vaccinate their children leaving them vulnerable to communicable diseases.
People who were born prior to 1957, have documentation of at least one dose of measles-containing vaccine, have a history of a physician diagnosed case of measles, have served in the arm forces, entered the United States in 1996 or later with an immigrant visa or have a green card, or are an infant who is under the age of three months whose biological mother has a documented 2 doses of MMR are considered immune. Please keep in mind that the infant will need to receive the normal vaccines at the appropriate times to build lasting immunity.
The only way to totally eradicate viral communicable disease such as measles is to protect ourselves via vaccination.

One thought on “Understanding and Preventing Measles

  1. This disease should be extinct. If people would only vaccinate their children, there would be sufficient immunity in the community to eliminate it completely. It is also important for people traveling abroad to be sure to have the vaccine before traveling. Frequently people bring in a new outbreak from overseas and then it spreads because of unvaccinated chiildren. This is an important issue. Thanks for posting it.

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