Keep a Healthy Awareness About Measles
By Michael Engel, MD
If you find recent news regarding the rising number of measles cases frightening, you have good reason. The outbreak has been more prevalent in the US so far in 2019 than in any single year in the past quarter of a century.
Measles is a highly contagious, airborne, viral infection. Symptoms often include high fever, cough, runny nose, conjunctivitis and rash. The rash usually appears 7 to 21 days after exposure. Approximately 2 out of every 1,000 cases can lead to death. The disease is especially dangerous during pregnancy and in young children. Measles only is seen in humans and does not spread by animals.
Today, most people diagnosed with measles have not had adequate vaccination. The measles vaccine is a combined vaccine usually given as MMR or Measles, Mumps and Rubella. It is typically given at 12 months of age, with a booster at 4 to 6 years of age. Infants traveling internationally may need to get the vaccine as young as 6 months of age. This is a live virus vaccine, so it should not be given to pregnant women or to others with weakened immune systems.
Still have questions?
Before the vaccine was available, measles infection was widespread. Because of this, anyone born before 1957 can be assumed to be immune. People vaccinated between 1963 and 1969 may have received a form of vaccine that was later found to be ineffective, and they may need a booster dose of vaccine. A simple blood test can help determine if you are immune.
If you have any questions about vaccination or protection from measles, please contact your primary care physician.
In addition, the Centers for Disease Control makes weekly updates to its resource for Measles Q&A.
Dr. Engel is a practicing Family Medicine Physician and Medical Director for Premier Medical Group.