6 Questions to Help You Better Understand Measles

1. What is Measles? According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), measles is a highly contagious respiratory disease caused by a virus. A person can become infected with measles by breathing contaminated air, or touching infected surfaces and then toughing their eyes, mouth, or nose. Measles starts with a fever, cough, runny nose, and red eyes followed by a red skin rash that can spread to different parts of the body. It’s most common in children, but it can affect adults who have not been vaccinated or who have not previously had the disease. 2. What are symptoms of measles?

The signs and symptoms of measles typically show up seven to 14 days after a person is exposed to the virus, says the CDC. The signs and symptoms usually begin with:

  • High fever,
  • Cough,
  • Runny nose, and
  • Red, watery eyes

Two or three days after the symptoms start, a rash of tiny white spots can appear on the inside of the mouth.

Three to five days after the symptoms start, a rash breaks out. The small, sometimes raised red spots usually start on the face along the hair line and neck, and then work down to the arms, trunk, legs, and feet.

3. Should I Be Worried About Measles?

If you and your children have been fully vaccinated for measles, it’s very unlikely you’ll get it.

In the event a fully vaccinated person gets the measles, they’re likely to have a milder case of it, and a smaller chance of spreading it to people who are unable to get vaccinated for medical reasons or age, according to the CDC.

If you or your children are not vaccinated, measles is very contagious. One infected person can spread the disease to 90 percent of the closest people around them who are not immune to it.

4. Why is There a Sudden Concern for Measles?

The increase in measles cases being reported in the early part of 2015 is connected to an outbreak in an amusement park in California last December.

You might be wondering why we’re seeing cases of measles in the U.S. now if it was eliminated in 2000. The answer is there are parts of the world where measles is still present, and when travelers visit these countries, they can spread the virus to unvaccinated people when they return home.

Since vaccination rates in some areas of the U.S. have declined for cultural or religious reasons, there’s a growing increase in measles cases over the last 10 years, with 2014 reporting the highest number of cases since 2001.

5. What Can I Do to Protect My Child and Family from the Measles?

Measles is almost a completely preventable disease in children and adults when they get the measles vaccine. Like medication, vaccines can have side effects. But most children who get the measles vaccine do not have any side effects.

To give your child the best protection against measles, get them vaccinated. They should receive their first measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine between 12 and 15 months of age, and their second MMR vaccine between four and six years old. Adults who have not had the MMR vaccine or who have not previously had the disease, should get at least one dose of the vaccine to protect themselves, their children, other children, and those unable to get vaccinated for medical reasons. If you don’t know whether or not you were vaccinated, talk to your doctor.

6. Are There Certain People Who Shouldn’t Get Vaccinated?

There are situations where people might delay getting the MMR vaccine or avoid getting it altogether. Example scenarios include they’ve had a life-threatening allergic reaction to the vaccine, they are sick at the time they’re supposed to get the shot, or are pregnant.

For more information on this, click here to visit the CDC’s website.

When to See the Doctor

If you have any signs or symptoms of measles, call your doctor before you visit their clinic or hospital to prevent spreading the virus.

To stay up-to-date with the latest information on measles, please visit www.cdc.gov.

Meet the Author

Jeffrey Smith, MD is the Chief Clinical Officer at Aurora Health Care. NO LONGER WITH AURORA.

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The information presented in this site is intended for general information and educational purposes. It is not intended to replace the advice of your own physician. Contact your physician if you believe you have a health problem.

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