All About the Measles

Posted on May 14, 2019

Category: Causes and Prevention Signs and Symptoms

From outbreaks in New York City and Oregon to recent news about quarantines on a cruise ship and on campus at UCLA, the measles is making a big (and scary) comeback. The outbreak began last fall and according to the CDC, 764 cases in 23 states have been confirmed through the first week of May 2019. This is the greatest number of cases reported in the U.S. since 1994 and since measles was declared eliminated in 2000.

Read on to learn more about the measles and how to protect yourself and your family.

First, here are the facts about measles:

  • Measles is a highly contagious viral infection that is preventable by vaccine.
  • Measles is spread through the air by respiratory droplets from coughing or sneezing. The measles virus can live for up to two hours in the air. You can contract the measles just by being in the same room as an infected person.
  • Measles symptoms don’t appear until 10 to 14 days after exposure. They include cough, runny nose, inflamed eyes, sore throat, fever and a red, blotchy skin rash.

Who’s at the highest risk? Unvaccinated infants and young children, as well as unvaccinated pregnant women. If you’re an adult and are not yet vaccinated, you should know that college students, teachers, healthcare personnel and international travelers are at increased risk.

How does the measles spread?

By mother to baby by pregnancy, labor or nursing. By airborne respiratory droplets (coughs or sneezes), by saliva (kissing or shared drinks), by skin-to-skin contact (handshakes or hugs), by touching a contaminated surface (blanket or doorknob).

Is the measles a dangerous disease?
Absolutely. Measles can result in serious health complications such as pneumonia and encephalitis, which is a swelling in the brain. Worldwide, the disease remains one of the leading causes of death among young children and infants. Before the MMR vaccine became available in 1963, millions of people became sick from the measles each year.

According to the CDC, one in four cases of the measles will require hospitalization. Complications are common in children less than five years of age and adults greater than 20 years of age.

How can I protect myself and my family from the measles?

Three words: Vaccinate, vaccinate, vaccinate. Vaccines are overwhelmingly safe, proven and based on the latest research by the CDC and the FDA. The measles is preventable by the MMR vaccine, which also protects against mumps and rubella.

You may have heard rumors about the MMR vaccine being linked to autism, but that is simply not true. Many well-designed scientific studies have shown no association between the MMR vaccine (or any vaccine) and autism.

Recently, a Danish study of more than half a million children showed no link between the MMR vaccination and autism. According to Dr. Kreesten Meldgaard Madsen, an epidemiologist and expert on infectious diseases at the Danish Epidemiology Science Centre, “Measles kills one in 3000 children, even in developed countries. It causes encephalitis in one in 2000 and pneumonia in one in 20. People tend to forget.”

Make sure you and your children are up to date on all recommended vaccinations.

Because measles is highly contagious, it’s also important for parents to take precautions with children who are either too young to be vaccinated or who cannot get vaccinated for medical reasons.

If you have more questions about the measles or the MMR vaccination, stop in to Sioux Falls Urgent Care to speak with a healthcare professional. We are open 7 days a week for your convenience and walk-ins are always welcome.