Measles outbreaks continue to make the news. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recently reported a 30% increase of measles cases in 2019, including cases in Illinois and 14 other states. With these increased cases, it is important for you as a parent to know more about measles and its complications, the MMR vaccine to help prevent the spread of measles and what to do if there is a local measles outbreak.
Measles is a highly contagious disease caused by a virus. It is spread by a sneeze or coughs and can last for up to two hours in the air.
Measles starts with cold-like symptoms including:
A red rash starts on the face and then develops on the body 2 to 4 days later. Once the rash appears, the fever may get much higher. This rash fades after four to seven days as symptoms go away. Measles can result in serious complications, including pneumonia, croup and brain infection, especially in those with weak immune systems.
The measles vaccine is part of the two-part MMR vaccine, which protects people from three serious viral diseases: the measles, mumps and rubella. The MMR vaccine is given in two doses, typically between the ages of 12 months and 15 months and then between the ages of 4 and 6.
Pediatrician Lisa Gold, MD, who practices at Franciscan Physician Network Crown Point Pediatric Health Center, has seen a small but continued number of parents that are declining or delaying vaccinations for their child. This is due to information they hear about or read online, that does not come from a scientific background, which proposes that vaccines such as the measles vaccine do more harm than good.
Dr. Gold says that measles vaccinations have a valid reason and place in our society. Since the measles is so contagious, this is why doctors want the population vaccinated.
If your child was in contact with measles but had received both doses, there is a very small chance that he or she would contract measles. Even if your child had received only one dose of the vaccine, he or she still has less than 10 percent chance of contracting measles.
On the other hand, if a child who has not received the vaccine comes in contact with the disease, there is a high chance they will get the disease.
The CDC recommends that adults born after 1957 who do did not have measles before or were not vaccinated for measles receive at least one dose of MMR vaccine. Women of childbearing age should make sure they have been vaccinated previously before they get pregnant.
Additionally, because of the risk of traveling internationally, it's recommended that you are vaccinated for measles before international travel.
If there has been a measles outbreak locally and you are concerned that your child was exposed to the measles virus, Dr. Gold suggests calling your child's pediatrician immediately to discuss exposure details and get advice. For children who have not been vaccinated, getting the vaccine up to 3 days after exposure to measles may prevent the disease.
"It is important for a person to understand what the details are of the potential exposure and then send the patient to a safe medical location, which often is the emergency room," Dr. Gold said.
If your child was exposed to the virus and you are concerned that he or she has measles, the child can be very contagious and should not be in a common area, like a doctor's office.
ERs have special rooms that have negative air pressure that allows them to isolate the patient and test them for measles.
If a child tests positive for measles, the child would be recommended to be hospitalized so infectious disease doctors can care for the patient. The treatment for the measles is hospitalization, IV fluids, supportive treatment and vitamin A; there are no specific antiviral medications for this disease. Treatment will depend on your child's symptoms, age, and general health. It will also depend on how severe the condition is.
By Ariel Anderson
Social Media Specialist