What is measles?
Measles is a viral infection that begins with a fever that lasts for several days, followed by a cough, runny nose, and conjunctivitis (pink eye). The rash starts on the face and upper neck, spreads down the back and trunk, and then extends to the extremities (arms and legs) to include the hands and feet. After about 5 days the rash then fades in the same order it appeared.
That all sounds fairly benign, so why should we worry about the measles?
- 1: 4 = require hospitalization
- 1: 1000 = Get encephalitis(inflammation of the brain)
- 1 or 2: 1000 = Will die from this illness either from pneumonia or encephalitis
- Pregnant Unvaccinated Women or Women who’s antibodies to the vaccine are no longer protective= are at risk if they acquire measles during pregnancy for Miscarriage, Still birth, Prematurity, or Congenital Rubella Syndrome which consists of heart problems, Microcephaly(small head), hearing and vision problems, learning problems, and the list goes on.
How is measles spread?
- A person with measles is contagious for 4 days before developing symptoms and remains contagious until 4 days after symptoms evolve.
- The measles virus lives in the mucous of the nose and throat, and is spread when people sneeze or cough.
- Droplets from coughing enter the air and can contaminate a space for up to 2 hours after person leaves
- Incubation period(time from exposure to dev of disease) is 7-21 days.
Memphis had 3 distinct outbreaks and now 7 confirmed cases. The cases were not related to foreign travel and the health department could find no relationship between the outbreaks but are still investigating.
So what about the measles vaccine!
- Introduced in 1963, and is combined with Mumps and Rubella to give the MMR (Measles, Mumps, and Rubella) vaccine. In 2000, Measles was felt to be eliminated in the United States, but there are still pockets of disease secondary to people traveling outside of the US and bringing it home or in populations which opt out of vaccines.
- There is no scientific proof that the measles vaccine causes Autism, and the vaccine does not contain mercury. The fear of both of these things has caused families to not vaccinate.
- Nationally, 91.9% of children between 19-35 months of age have had at least one MMR vaccine as of 2013. However, Arkansas’s numbers were at 88.3% for the country (near the bottom but not the worst). The saddest part of these statistics, is that our state is at the very bottom of the list for this age group having received all of its vaccines at 57% (means only 57% of kids in Arkansas between 19-35 months of age are completely immunized).
- At present the recommendations are that children receive 2 doses of the MMR vaccine. The first dose to be given between 12-15 months of age, and this would protect 93% of those exposed from getting measles. The second dose normally is given between 4-6 years of age,with entrance to school and raises the protection level to 97%(this means if you were exposed to measles you should be protected against not getting it 97% of the time). If the health department deems necessary, they will change timing of second vaccine and request it to be given 28 days after first.
- Those less then 5 yrs of age are the one of the most susceptible groups, either because they are too young to vaccinate or have not gotten their second dose of the vaccine.
What about babies who aren’t vaccinated because they are too young?
Babies get passive immunity from their mothers (antibodies pass through the placenta), but no one is quite sure how long these last for. Thus this age group is very much at risk.
What other groups can’t receive the vaccine?
Pregnant women, those on steroids and other immunosuppressive medicines can not receive the MMR vaccine. This includes those individuals who have undergone transplants or are bring treated for cancer.
So the major take home point is that we need to get our children immunized with the MMR vaccine to protect them, but also to protect those in the community who are too young, pregnant, or unable to be vaccinated for other medical reasons. Stay informed by checking your local news and visiting our website for updates.