There are many things people like to bring back from vacation. Good memories, souvenirs, photos, and perhaps a tan. But in June of 2017, one unsuspecting traveler accidentally brought back the measles virus, officially reintroducing the extremely contagious disease to their home state, Maine, the first time since the last outbreak in 1997. (1)
Unfortunately, measles is on an uptrend nationwide. From January 1 to June 17, 2017, 108 people from 11 states (California, Florida, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Utah, and Washington) were reported to have measles. Only partway through the year, that’s already a 150% increase from all of 2016’s reported measles cases. (2)
Am I At Risk of Catching Measles?
Measles is an extremely contagious disease, passed on by coughing and sneezing. The virus can be transmitted through the air or on touched surfaces, even 2 hours after an infected person who has coughed or sneezed as left. Unless someone is immune, they have a 90% chance of contracting measles once exposed. Unfortunately, measles can be transmitted even before symptoms appear.
1 in 20 children with measles will also contract pneumonia as a complication, and 1 in 1000 children will also develop swelling of the brain as a result of measles (this can put them at risk of deafness and even intellectual disability). (5) It’s imperative that parents know how to identify measles early and understand how best to protect their children (and themselves)from the infection in the first place.
Watch Out for these Measles Symptoms
red, watery eyes
small white spots around the mouth
red, spotty rash (4)
How to Prevent Measles
It’s undisputed that the best way to prevent contracting measles, given its extreme contagiousness, is to receive the measles vaccine. talk to your doctor about staying updated with measles vaccine (also known as the measles, mumps, rubella vaccine). Conventionally, the first dose is administered at 1 year of age, then between 4-6 years old, and again during adulthood. You should talk to your doctor about the pros and cons and safety of getting the vaccine for your family. (Read More: Are Vaccines 100% Safe?)
Additionally, you should wash your hands with soap often, taking extra precautions around people who are coughing and sneezing. If your child is sick with a fever, keep them separate from the rest of the family, and be diligent about cleaning up the surfaces they touch with an antibacterial agent.
If you believe you have been exposed to measles, the CDC recommends the following response:
“Immediately call your doctor and let him or her know that you have been exposed to someone who has measles. Your doctor can a) determine if you are immune to measles based on your vaccination record, age, or laboratory evidence, and b) make special arrangements to evaluate you, if needed, without putting other patients and medical office staff at risk.
If you are not immune to measles, MMR vaccine or a medicine called immune globulin may help reduce your risk developing measles. Your doctor can help to advise you, and monitor you for signs and symptoms of measles.
If you do not get MMR or immune globulin, you should stay away from settings where there are susceptible people (such as school, hospital, or childcare) until your doctor says it’s okay to return. This will help ensure that you do not spread it to others.” (3)
Keep your family safe. Watch out for the signs of infection and act quickly.