• By Felicia Lovett and Linda Means
  • Posted Thursday, February 19, 2015

Protect Yourself From the Measles

You may have seen the recent press coverage regarding the measles outbreak. This outbreak began when an infected person spread the illness to more than three dozen people at Disneyland who then exposed many others. Most were unvaccinated, according to California state health officials. The outbreak has now spread to 17 states and Washington DC. The risk of coming into contact with measles increases due to our mobile society. Measles is one of the most highly communicable of all infectious diseases. This information will help you better understand the risk that unvaccinated individuals can have on the public if the disease comes to North Carolina.

The symptoms of measles can appear about 7-14 days after a person is infected. Symptoms can be characterized by:

  • fever
  • cough
  • cold symptoms
  • conjunctivitis, followed by a rash

The rash spreads from the head to trunk to lower extremities. Measles can result in complications such as pneumonia, encephalitis and death.

Measles can be prevented in adults and children by getting the MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella) vaccine. The MMR vaccine is safe and very effective at preventing measles infection. Two doses of MMR are routinely recommended for all children unless there is a physician-diagnosed medical reason not to receive it. The first dose is given between the ages of 12 and 15 months, and the second dose is given after the 4th birthday, before the child starts school. The vaccine is 99% effective after 2 doses of MMR.

Pregnant women, people who have recently received blood products, people who have immunosuppressive issues such as leukemia, HIV, on chemotherapy or have any other condition that affects the immune system should not receive the MMR vaccine. Because people with these conditions are at higher risk for complications of the measles, those around them should be fully vaccinated.

If there is a case of measles at your child’s school or daycare and your child has not been vaccinated with the MMR vaccine, they will be excluded from school or daycare until 21 days after the onset of rash in the last case of measles at your child’s school or daycare.

Therefore, we strongly urge all children to get the MMR as soon as possible unless they have a physician-diagnosed medical reason not to receive this vaccine. We must protect those among us that are too young to get the vaccine and those with immune issues. It is all our responsibility to do this, each and every one of us.

For more information please contact the Forsyth County Health Department Immunization Program Manager at 336-703-3314.

Please reference the CDC and Vaccine Preventable Disease website for more information.

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