With the recent outbreak of the measles virus in Disneyland last month, many people have had questions and concerns about the virus. There are now a confirmed 42+ cases linked to the virus within the state of California and 9+ cases outside the state due to traveling. This brings attention to the fact that 85 percent of those 42+ confirmed cases had not been vaccinated for the measles virus. As the situation continues to escalate, UnityPoint Clinic wants to touch on the many ways that you and your loved ones can prevent this potentially critical scenario.
What is Measles?
Measles is a childhood infection that is caused by a virus beginning in the nose and throat. At one time, measles was extremely common, but it is now easily prevented through vaccines. The measles is also referred to as rubeola and can be very serious, even fatal, for all ages.
Measles spreads when someone who has contracted the virus coughs, talks, or infected droplets spray into the air where other people can inhale them. Along with the ability to contract the virus through the air, if infected droplets land on a surface, the virus can remain active and potentially contagious for several hours.
For more information: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Symptoms of Measles
Measles symptoms tend to appear 10-14 days after an individual is exposed to the virus and will occur in stages over 2-3 weeks. Typical symptoms include:
- Runny nose
- Inflamed Eyes
- Sore Throat
- Red, blotchy rash made up of large, flat blotches that flow into one another
- Small white spots with bluish-white centers on a red background found on the inner lining of the cheek
If you or someone in your household is believed to have the measles virus, there are a few steps you can take to prevent it from spreading further. Since the measles is highly contagious, those who have contracted the virus need to stay out of activities that involve interacting with others for four days before to four days after the rash breaks out. With that, it is extremely important to keep those who are nonimmunized away from the infected individual(s).
The most effective way to prevent the virus from spreading is to get the vaccination as soon as possible. Anyone born after 1957 that has not yet been vaccinated, as well as children older than 6 months, should do so as soon as possible. According to our very own Dr. Marie De Alwis from UnityPoint Clinic, “Vaccines are single-handedly involved in reducing childhood mortality over the last century. For example, there were an estimated 2.6 million deaths per year due to measles prior to routine vaccination in the 1980’s and most deaths were in young children. If traveling outside of the country with a child one year old or younger, discuss the MMR vaccination with your pediatrician prior to travel.”
To read Dr. Marie De Alwis’ full article on why to vaccinate: #Vaccinate2015
History of the Measles in America
In 1912 measles became a notifiable disease in the United States, therefore reporting on all diagnosed cases within the country was enforced. Within the first decade of reporting there were, on average, 6,000 measles recorded deaths each year. According to the Centers for Disease and Control and Prevention, the decade before 1963 when a vaccine finally became available, almost all children had been diagnosed with the measles before the age of 15. In 1963, the measles virus vaccine was licensed in the US. Later in 1968 an improved measles vaccine was developed and began being distributed within the United States, which continues to be the same vaccine used today.
It was in 1978 that the CDC set a goal to fully eliminate the measles from the US by 1982. Though they did not meet that goal, in 1981 the virus was down by 80 percent compared to the previous year. With a minor bump in 1989 where there was a measles outbreak among vaccinated school children, it became recommended for a second round of the MMR vaccine for every child. Measles was officially eradicated in 2000 from the United States due to the highly effective vaccination program and better measles control within the country.
Why Has the Measles Virus Come back?
Due to the anti-vaccination movement, we have seen a resurgence of the virus leading to the current outbreak. The CDC documented that just last year, we saw a record high of 644 confirmed measles cases in the US. This anti-vaccination movement is based on a fraudulent research article that states the causal relationship between vaccinations and higher risks of developing autism, which has led to the decrease in vaccinations. Intensive research done by many organizations including the CDC have come back negative, indicating no causal relationship between vaccines and autism.
Typically, children receive their first MMR vaccine, which protects against measles, mumps, and rubella, at 12-15 months of age and then again before attending school. Since this is the number one preventative measure you can take, it is important to speak with your physician about immunizations.
When to See a Doctor
It is never too late to prevent the measles virus from affecting you and your loved ones. If you believe that you or your family have been exposed to the measles virus and are showing symptoms, contact your doctor immediately. You can reach your UnityPoint Clinic doctor by calling your clinic or by using the MyUnityPoint patient portal. MyUnityPoint is a secure way to communicate with your primary care physician and access your medical records online.