Like smallpox or polio, there's something about the word "measles" that sounds old-timey and antiquated. When cases of it pop up - like they did this week in East Tennessee - it's easy to be confused. This is what you should know.
Back up. I thought measles didn't exist anymore? Before a vaccine became available in 1963, nearly all children got measles by the time they were 15. That means nearly 3 to 4 million people were infected every year. And while the disease was declared eradicated in the United States back in 2000, the CDC says we can still get measles from:
- an increase in the number of travelers who get measles abroad and bring it into the U.S., and/or
- further spread of measles in U.S. communities with pockets of unvaccinated people.
Is there a vaccine? Yes, and it's very effective. The MMR, measles mumps and rubella shot, is a two-dose shot completed by age 6. The CDC says the vaccine protects you for life and is 93 percent effective against the measles, but it's still good to know the symptoms. Health professionals stress if you don't know if you have the vaccine or not, it is a good idea to check your medical records or go to your doctor for a blood test.
What actually causes measles?Morbillivirus is the virus that causes measles. It's estimated that, on average, 90% of people exposed to someone with measles will get the disease themselves.
There are two exceptions to that: if a person has had a vaccine, or if they have had measles before you won't catch it. If you survive measles, you retain immunity to it for life.
What are the symptoms I should look out for? A rash covering the body starts to form about three to five days after exposure. Symptoms also include:
- Fever, that can spike to 104 degrees
- Dry cough
- Runny nose
- Sore throat
- Inflamed eyes
- Koplik's spots: This is the main one to look for. According to the Mayo Clinic, a health organization, they are "tiny white spots with bluish-white centers on a red background found inside the mouth on the inner lining of the cheek."
This disease is also very contagious. The CDC estimates that 90% of those exposed to someone with the measles will get it themselves if they haven't been vaccinated.
Is my child protected against measles?
The CDC says you're protected from measles if you have written records that show you have ONE of the following:
- You received two doses of measles-containing vaccine, and you are a(n)—
- school-aged child (grades K-12)
- adult who will be in a setting that poses a high risk for measles transmission, including students at post-high school education institutions, healthcare personnel, and international travelers.
- You received one dose of measles-containing vaccine, and you are a(n)—
- preschool-aged child
- adult who will not be in a high-risk setting for measles transmission.
- A laboratory confirmed that you had measles at some point in your life.
- A laboratory confirmed that you are immune to measles.
- You were born before 1957.
So what's up with the outbreak happening now?
Measles cases have been ticking up across the country for months. In fact, 2019, is set to be the second-worst year for measles since the disease was declared eradicated from the United States back in 2000.
Other states that have reported cases to CDC are Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Texas, and Washington.
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