According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the United States is currently experiencing a large outbreak of measles, linked to an amusement park in California, that has spread across multiple states.
While there have not been any reported cases of measles in Iowa since 2009, the disease is highly contagious. Mahaska Health Partnership wants you to know the signs and symptoms of measles and how to protect your family from the virus.
“Measles is one of the most contagious diseases in existence,” explained Gloria Reed, MHP Nursing Director over Infection Control. “The droplets can be transmitted when someone breathes, coughs or sneezes. The virus can live on surfaces and in the air for up to two hours, so it’s possible to be exposed without ever being around an infected individual.”
According to the CDC, measles is a virus characterized by a high fever, cough, runny nose, red, watery eyes and a red, bumpy skin rash. It is spread through droplets from infected peoples’ coughs and sneezes and usually occurs in individuals who have not had the disease or received a vaccine to prevent measles. Symptoms generally appear within seven to 14 days after exposure.
The virus can be serious for any age group, but children under five, adults over 20, and those with compromised immune systems, including pregnant women, are more likely to suffer complications. “Severe complications such as pneumonia and swelling of the brain can occur as a result of measles,” Reed explained. “This disease is not something to take lightly; people develop serious complications and deaths have occurred as a result of measles.”
Since January 1, 2015, 102 cases have been reported in 14 different states, including Nebraska, South Dakota, Minnesota and Illinois. “Due to the highly contagious nature of this disease, it’s important to make sure you and your family are properly vaccinated against measles,” Reed urged.
“Two doses of the vaccine given at least 28 days apart are necessary to develop lifetime protection,” Reed continued. “Children in public schools or anyone in a high risk transmission setting, such as college students, healthcare employees and international travelers, should be vaccinated.”
According to MHP Pediatrician Dr. John O’Brien, you need to consider your loved ones when deciding to get vaccinations. “If you are a young and healthy person, your chances of developing complications from measles are low. However, you need to consider your loved ones too. An elderly grandparent, someone with cancer or a young niece or nephew could easily catch the disease. The consequences for them could be devastating, so make sure to consider all factors when deciding whether to vaccinate. “
As with any vaccine, there are risks for complications. “It is possible for someone to develop a fever, mild rash or swollen glands as a result of the measles vaccine,” Dr. O’Brien explained. “However, the chances of severe complications from the vaccine are so rare, it is well worth the risk.”
If you are unsure whether you have received your measles vaccine, contact your primary care provider. If they are unable to provide written documentation of your vaccines, there is no harm in getting a dose of the MMR (measles-mumps-rubella) vaccine.
“Vaccines have been developed that allow us to live longer, healthier lives,” Dr. O’Brien explained. “Not only do they provide protection for you and your loved ones, but you can help protect those around you who are unable to receive the vaccine.”
If you have specific questions regarding measles, Dr. O’Brien suggested visiting the CDC website at www.cdc.gov
or the Iowa Department of Public Health’s website at www.idph.state.ia.us