MEASLES: The Comeback Kid

February 11th, 2015 by

Measles It’s Back! Whether you have watched the news, Googled, or picked up a paper lately then it’s certain you have been made aware of the current resurgence that measles is attempting to make!

In fact, according to the CDC, a total of 102 cases across 14 states have been confirmed thus far in 2015.

This is a drastic difference compared to 2000, when the United States declared measles had been essentially eliminated.

Considering a current trend to forgo routine vaccinations due to perceived risks, compounded by international travel and immigration; it seems this virus could reach epidemic proportions.

Health care workers began to take notice when in December 2014 there were 59 patients diagnosed with measles; all who lived within 11 counties in California.  The common thread was the happiest place on earth: Disneyland.

Five of the confirmed cases were Disney employees; the patients ranged in age from 7 months to 70 years old.  Just last week, 5 infants at a local daycare in Illinois were also diagnosed with measles.

Measles Facts

What should you know about this virus to keep your friends and family safe?  First and foremost, humans are the only natural hosts of measles, also called Rubeola. Secondly, measles is a highly contagious respiratory virus that is spread via direct contact with droplets, which can linger on surfaces and remain airborne for up to two hours.

And finally, those most at risk for contracting this illness are infants, pregnant women, the immuno-compromised and people who have not received the measles vaccine.

The symptoms of measles are high fever (up to 104 degrees Fahrenheit), runny nose, cough, sore throat and red eyes. Typically 14 days after exposure, a body rash develops that traditionally starts at the head, then spreads to the trunk and extremities.  Patients are considered contagious 4 days prior to the appearance of the rash until 4 days after the rash appears.

Therefore, the virus is easily spread to others in close contact before many suspect or are able to confirm a measles diagnosis.  Complications can range from an ear infection, diarrhea, bronchitis and pneumonia, to more serious matters with long term effects, such as encephalitis.

Prevention is the Best Medicine

Prevention is the best way to approach this particular virus.  Children should receive their first measles vaccination between 12-15 months, and a second dose prior to entering school at 4-6 years of age.  The CDC reports that after receiving 2 doses of the measles vaccine, it is 99% effective against contraction of the virus.

Since the American Academy of Pediatrics does not recommend the measles vaccine for infants, that leaves them at higher risk of contracting the virus.  However, maternal transfer of immunities through pregnancy and breastfeeding can aid in short term protection lasting a few months. It is, however, recommended that you keep your infant away from large crowds during a measles outbreak.

If you have lost your shot records over the years, and are unsure if you received the measles vaccinations; your PCP can draw a titer to determine if you have achieved adequate immunity. Handwashing, as always, is a key factor in killing harmful germs that you may encounter on a daily basis.  Stay home from work, school and other public places if you develop viral symptoms.  Likewise, avoid others that have been ill.

Though the measles virus is highly contagious and is responsible for hospitalizations and many unwanted side effects, it is very much a preventable illness.  If you and your family members have received the appropriate vaccinations, you have no need to worry about a possible exposure.  If you have further concerns, please contact your pediatrician or family doctor to discuss these issues.

About the Author:

Cynthia MacDonald

Cynthia MacDonald has been a registered nurse for 17, with most of her clinical background focused in pediatric and neonatal intensive care. She has worked in hospitals and also extensively as an agency nurse traveling locally to hospitals in order to fulfill staffing needs, both per diem and on a contract basis. This provides her with a wide base of knowledge and experience on how area hospitals operate their units, and also how different doctors practice. She enjoys working with children and babies on a daily basis, and also interacting with their families during a time of crisis, making their stay as pleasant as possible.

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