What You Need to Know About Measles
Hearing about a measles outbreak is becoming more common, and the state of Washington recently declared a state emergency as the disease spreads. For many, this disease does not strike as much fear into people’s hearts because they have never experienced it. In fact, the United States declared that they had eliminated it from the country in 2000 due to their highly effective vaccines. With it coming back, there is information that you need to know so you can prepare. Measles is a serious disease and you should not take it lightly.
What Is Measles?
Measles is a highly contagious disease that spreads through coughing and sneezing. After an infected person coughs or sneezes in an area, the virus can linger there for up to two hours. This makes it difficult to protect those that are susceptible to it. If someone breathes it in or touches an infected area, they can then catch it as well. It is also so contagious that the infected person will spread the virus to 90 percent of their close contacts.
The person infected with measles is contagious about four days before any symptoms show, and they are contagious about four days after the symptoms disappear. The first symptoms you will see are a fever of up to 105 degrees Fahrenheit, a runny nose, and pink eye. At first, you can mistake these symptoms for another virus, but it is the rash that comes later that sets it apart. The rash starts at the top of the head and behind the ear, and then spreads all the way down to the feet.
While measles can be mild in some cases, it can also cause serious health complications in others. Many of the most serious cases occur in children under five years of age. In the United States, about 1 in 4 people with measles are hospitalized. About 1 in every 1,000 cases experience brain swelling, which can lead to brain damage. About 1 or 2 in every 1,000 cases end up dying.
How Do I Prevent It?
Experts state that everyone should worry that an illness is coming back that we can prevent with vaccines. Some of the other countries in the world do not vaccinate for measles, so international travelers can bring the virus to the United States. It would not be very concerning if everyone had received the vaccine because if they did contract the disease, it would likely be mild. However, the number of unvaccinated people is growing, which leaves more people susceptible to a life-threatening case. If you received the vaccine, the vaccine will prevent it in about 97 percent of cases. Research also states that those who have had measles before are extremely unlikely to ever catch it again.
The best way to prevent yourself and your children from catching this serious disease is to receive the vaccination. Most people receive the vaccine in their early childhood, and they need two doses for the best protection. They should receive their first dose between 12 and 15 months of age and the second dose between 4 and 6 years of age. If you plan to travel internationally with your child and they are younger than the recommended age, they can receive the vaccine as early as six months old.
There are many more viruses out there that are more common, like the flu, that parents should be preparing for. However, with the current measles outbreaks, it is also important to educate yourself. This disease can be deadly, especially to young children, so we should do everything we can to protect ourselves and our families.