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How Measles Outbreaks Keep Happening and What You Need to Know

Measles seems like a disease from the past. In fact, in 2000 the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) stated that measles was eliminated from the U.S. as a result of standardized measles vaccination programs. So how do measles outbreaks keep happening? According to the CDC, the source of measles outbreaks begins with unvaccinated travelers who are ill with measles and come to our country. This includes American travelers who are unvaccinated and pick up the virus while traveling in areas where measles is still prevalent. From January 1 to February 28, 2019, 206 individual cases of measles were confirmed in 11 states.

The stats are concerning, but there are steps you can take to help keep your kids safe. Here’s what you need to know about measles.

What is it?

Measles is a very contagious viral illness that causes a distinct red, blotchy rash and a fever. It’s spread through direct contact with droplets from coughs or sneezes from a person with measles. However, a person with measles is contagious several days before a rash or fever is present, so you or your child is at-risk if you are not vaccinated against the virus that causes measles.

What are the symptoms?

Measles often starts with cold-like symptoms, such as:

  • Fever
  • Runny nose
  • Pink eye
  • Hacking cough
  • Tiny white spots inside the mouth

Within another few days, a red rash appears. It often starts on the face and then spreads to the rest of the body.

When should I call a health care provider?

“Because the symptoms of measles may look like other health problems, it’s important your child sees his or her pediatrician for a diagnosis as soon as possible,” says Raji Srinivasan, MD, with LVPG Family Medicine–Orefield.

Get emergency care if your child has:

  • A fever higher than 105 degrees
  • Trouble breathing
  • A severe headache
  • Confusion or clumsiness

How can measles be prevented?

The measles vaccine is part of the routine vaccines recommended for children. The vaccine is given in two doses:

  • First dose at 12 to 15 months of age
  • Second dose at 4 to 6 years of age

Keep in mind that school-aged children (kindergarten through grade 12) need to have the second vaccine dose to be considered protected from measles, Srinivasan says.

If you are not sure if you received measles vaccine as a child and it is not noted in your immunization record, the CDC says there is no harm in receiving the MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccine again. Speak with your primary care doctor or provider for advice.

Visit LVHN.org or call 888-402-LVHN (5846) for more information or to schedule an appointment with a primary care provider.