Measles Makes a Comeback

Measles has been staying in the shadows for over 50 years, until now. So what’s the sudden influx and why has there been an outbreak declared as a state of emergency in NY recently?

More than half of new parents with children under the age of 5 years old have reported that social media has exposed them to negative or inaccurate information about vaccines, and 2 out of 5 parents with children under the age of 18 reported being exposed “often or sometimes” to misleading information.

According to the World Health Organization, vaccine hesitancy is defined as “the reluctance or refusal to vaccinate despite the availability of vaccines.” As of right now, the WHO has placed vaccine hesitancy in the top 10 health threats for 2019, right up there with Ebola.

In most recent news, we’ve heard about a quarantined cruise ship named “Freewinds” reportedly owned by the Church of Scientology to remain in port after learning a passenger had the measles, as well as a measles outbreak near Portland, Oregon where over 70 children and young adults became sick with measles.

In the Oregon investigation, this is what they found:

  • 1 to 10 years old – 52 cases
  • 11 to 18 years old – 14 cases
  • 19 to 29 years old – 1 case
  • 30 – 39 years old – 4 cases

As far as their immunization status, the findings suggested that 61 cases were unimmunized, 7 cases were unverified, and 3 cases had 1 MMR vaccine. Fortunately, no deaths have been reported, according to Dr. Alan Melnick, Public Health Director of Clark County.

What should I know about Measles?

As far as infectious diseases are concerned, measles is one of the most infectious known to humans. In fact, a person with measles can infect 12 to 18 other people who are unvaccinated.

In the U.S., there were 4 million cases of measles with 48,000 people hospitalized and 500 deaths every year prior to 1963 after the introduction of the measles vaccine. The current outbreak of measles seems to be connected with lower rates of vaccines.

What causes measles?

Measles is caused by the rubeola virus that is found in mucus inside the throat and nose. It is highly contagious. If a person with measles speaks, coughs, or sneezes, the droplets expelled into the air are easily ingested by others and they become infected and highly contagious as well.

Measles can live on a surface and remain contagious and active for hours, allowing the virus to spread when someone touches that same surface, then making contact with their mouth, nose, or eyes. Approximately 90% of people who are not vaccinated or susceptible to the virus will become infected.

Symptoms of Measles

Symptoms of measles appear typically around 7 to 14 days after someone becomes infected. The signs and symptoms include:

  • Fever
  • Runny nose
  • Sore throat
  • Dry cough
  • Skin rash

Other symptoms and signs include tiny white spots that can be found inside the infected person’s mouth on the inside cheek. These are defined as “Koplik’s spots” that have a blue/white center on a red background. The rash is often made up of big and flat blotches that flow into each other.

The cold-like symptoms that include the cough, sore throat, and runny nose typically develop within 1 to 3 days and are accompanied by a fever and red, itchy eyes. The Koplik spots that appear on the inner lining of the mouth start showing within 2 to 3 days, while the rash breakout usually rears it’s ugly head 3 to 5 days in. This is usually the time you’ll see a fever spiking over 104 degrees.

What are risk factors for measles?

Measles risk factors include:

  • Unvaccinated children
  • Unvaccinated people due to medical reasons
  • Vitamin A deficiency
  • Missed booster shot
  • Traveling internationally

Can I get measles if I’ve been vaccinated?

Most people who have been immunized are immune to the measles, but according to the CDC, 3 out of 100 people who have had both doses may still get it after being exposed.

The effectiveness of the MMR vaccine against measles are:

  • 93% effective with one dose
  • 97% effective with the second dose

When should I see a doctor?

If you feel like you or your child has been exposed to measles, or if you start to notice a rash resembling the description above, get in contact with your provider. Make sure to go over your medical history and immunization records. If you haven’t had your child immunized and school is quickly approaching, now is a good time to talk about it with the provider.

If you have not been immunized and you become infected with the disease, talk to your provider about getting the MMR vaccine. This may prevent the possibility of getting measles in the future, as well as mumps and rubella. If you are vaccinated within 72 hours of being exposed to the measles, it may provide some form of protection, or lower it to a milder case.

Is the MMR vaccine affordable?

While most health insurers will cover the cost of vaccines, make sure you check with your health insurance provider. If you have an insurance plan through the Health Insurance Marketplace, you are more than likely covered for certain vaccines without a copayment when you are in-network. Measles is typically one of these vaccines that are covered.

If you need assistance paying for any medications, be sure to contact our Medication Assistance Program at 336-694-1181, ext 236.

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