This winter brought unexpected news in our nation – a multi-state outbreak of measles. This outbreak, which began at Disneyland in California in December 2014, has spread to several states and impacted more than 100 individuals. It is the largest outbreak of measles the United States has seen in two decades.
While a local outbreak of measles is unlikely, the best way for our community to protect itself is to be educated about this disease, its signs, symptoms, spread and prevention. Fauquier Hospital is well prepared to address cases of measles and provide our community with the information it needs to protect local families from infection.
What exactly is measles?
According to Anhtai H. Nguyen, M.D., Chief Medical Officer of Fauquier Hospital, measles is a serious, highly contagious respiratory disease caused by a virus. Common complications from measles include ear infections and diarrhea, and severe cases can cause pneumonia, convulsions, blindness, brain damage and death.
What are the symptoms of measles?
Common symptoms include:
· Fever, which can become very high
· Runny nose
· Conjunctivitis, also known as pink eye
· A rash, running from the hairline to the face and neck
· Tiny white spots with bluish-white centers found inside the mouth
How is measles spread?
Dr. Nguyen confirms that measles is very contagious. Infected people can spread measles to others from four days before to four days after the rash appears.
· Through the air. Droplets from coughs or sneezes of an infected person can make others sick for up to two hours after that person leaves a room.
· On surfaces. Tables, doorknobs, keyboards, and phones that are touched by an infected person can transmit the measles virus to others.
The incubation period for measles, from exposure to fever, can be 7-12 days, and the time from exposure to rash onset can be 7-21 days.
What do you do if you have been exposed to measles?
If you or your child has been near someone diagnosed with measles or begins to exhibit any of the symptoms associated with the disease, notify your healthcare provider or contact Fauquier Hospital immediately. Early intervention can help prevent the spread of infection and be helpful in treating an infected person’s symptoms.
What can be done to prevent measles?
Dr. Nguyen said, “The most important thing we all can do is get vaccinated. The measles vaccine is known as the MMR vaccine and also protects against mumps and rubella. It is estimated that 95 of 100 people who get fully vaccinated will be protected from measles.”
Two doses of the MMR vaccine are recommended for children. The first should be administered between 12 and 15 months and the second between ages 4 and 6. Adults born after 1957 who have not been vaccinated also should receive one to two doses of the MMR vaccine; adults should contact their healthcare provider to discuss appropriate immunization.
If you need the MMR vaccine or have any concerns about whether you may or may not be fully vaccinated, contact your doctor or Fauquier Hospital for assistance, said Dr. Nguyen. “Fauquier Hospital is happy to answer your questions about measles anytime. You also can find out more information about this disease and the current outbreak at www.cdc.gov/measles.”