What You Need to Know About Measles

Posted on April 1, 2024 by Published by

An increase in measles cases across the country and the globe has prompted the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to release an health advisory urging immunization.

Since January 1, the CDC has been notified of 58 confirmed measles cases and seven outbreaks in the U.S., 54 of which were linked to international travel. In 2023, the CDC was notified of 58 cases and four outbreaks. The advisory urges all U.S. residents traveling to ensure they are up to date on measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccination and recommends health care providers make sure pediatric patients are current on routine immunizations, including MMR. Additionally, the CDC is recommending all infants between ages 6-12 months who are traveling internationally receive an early MMR vaccine.

“A single dose of the MMR vaccine is 93 percent effective, and two doses are 97 percent effective in preventing measles, which means measles is almost entirely avoidable,” explains Dr. Michael TeKippe, a pediatric infectious diseases physician at Advocate Children’s Hospital. “The first dose is typically given between 12-15 months of age, and the second between 4-6 years of age. Unfortunately, in recent years, the percentage of U.S. kindergarteners vaccinated has dropped. This increases our chances of measles outbreaks and puts our entire community at risk.”

The first symptoms of measles include high fever (typically between 102-105°F), cough, runny nose, and red, watery eyes. A day or two later, small, white dots known as Koplik spots may develop inside the mouth. The classic measles rash appears about three to four days after symptoms start. The fever and other symptoms typically last between 6 to 10 days.

Measles can be especially dangerous in children less than 1 year old and immunocompromised individuals. Severe complications of the illness include pneumonia, brain inflammation — known as encephalitis — and death.

“Measles is likely the most contagious disease we know, and it can spread rapidly,” says Dr. TeKippe. “However, the measles vaccine is also the best vaccine we have and is very effective. Immunization can help protect you and your loved ones.”

Article contributed by: Holly Brenza.

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