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Measles Outbreak: Latest Information & How to Protect Your Family

May 13, 2019

Measles Outbreak: Latest Information & How to Protect Your Family

The measles outbreaks occurring in the United States has many on high alert. Confirmed cases according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have been widespread, including in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, and Michigan. Ensuring you and your family are protected against this highly-contagious disease is vital, as it can be a serious illness for anyone and may result in life-threatening complications.

Overview of the Measles

While many have undoubtedly heard of the measles, it’s possible that some are unaware of what other symptoms it may cause other than the signature rash. When a person contracts measles, it will typically begin with a high fever, cough, runny nose and red, watery eyes. Two to three days after symptoms start, small, white spots may begin to appear within the mouth. Within three to five days after the start of symptoms, the person infected will develop a rash that appears as flat red spots, usually beginning at the hairline and spreading down over the entire body. When the rash is present, the infected person may experience a fever of 104° or higher.

Common complications include ear infections in children that may result in permanent hearing loss as well as diarrhea in some individuals. More severe complications that may occur include pneumonia, encephalitis (swelling of the brain), or even death. If a pregnant woman contracts measles, it could result in premature birth or a low-birth-weight baby. Although rare, the fatal disease of the central nervous system, subacute sclerosing panencephalitis (SSPE) could result for those infected early in life.

Current Outbreak Numbers

According to the CDC, as of May 10, 2019, there have been 839 individual confirmed cases of measles in 22 states just in this year alone. The number of reported cases is considered to be the highest in the U.S. since 1994. This is of particular concern as measles was declared eliminated in 2000.

There are several outbreaks currently happening this year, which is considered as three or more confirmed cases within a particular location. The outbreaks are present in New York, Michigan, New Jersey, California (Butte County, LA County, and Sacramento County), Georgia, and Maryland. These have all been linked to individuals who have traveled outside the country to locations that are currently experiencing outbreaks.

Why Protection against Measles is Important

Although some believe measles is simply a nuisance disease, the reality is that it can be very dangerous for even the healthiest individuals. Because this disease can spread so quickly and easily, it’s important to be vaccinated to not only protect yourself but also those around you. Children five and younger and adults older than 20 are at the highest risk of serious complications as a result of the measles.

Attempting to avoid the measles is extremely difficult thanks to its highly-contagious nature. It spreads quickly through the air if an infected individual coughs or sneezes, and 9 out of 10 people around that individual will become infected without proper protection, such as the vaccine. Worse yet, the measles can still be acquired up to two hours after the person has left the location, leaving countless others at risk. Most would understand you don’t go out in public when you are sick, but the measles can be spread even before symptoms appear. When a person is infected, they are contagious from about four days before the rash develops through roughly four days after.

For those who become infected, roughly 1 in 4 people will need to be hospitalized. Out of every 1,000 measles cases, 1 will develop encephalitis which may result in permanent brain damage, and out of that same 1,000, 1 or 2 individuals will die, even if they receive the best medical care.

This disease is entirely preventable thanks to the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine. The first dose of the vaccine should be given between 12 to 15 months of age, with the second dose between 4 to 6 years old. Older individuals who are unsure of their protection status should consult with their physician to discover if a booster is necessary.

Unfortunately, as more individuals opt their children or themselves out of receiving the vaccination, more people are at risk of spreading the disease. Unfortunately, there are many who are unable to receive the vaccine due to age or true medical restrictions, so as the vaccination rates decline, the herd immunity protection drops, putting them at much higher risk.

Together, we can help stop the spread of measles and protect our communities from becoming part of the statistic. If you or your child require the MMR vaccine, visit one of our convenient locations today. Should you or a loved one begin experiencing any measles symptoms, contact your doctor right away rather than going in as they may set up special arrangements, or you will at least allow them to make proper precautions to keep other patients, staff and visitors safe.

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