The United States is experiencing a high number of measles cases this year. Many of these cases were acquired during international travel to areas experiencing large outbreaks, including France, the United Kingdom, Spain, Switzerland, Africa, and Asia, including India. The cases involved unvaccinated U.S. residents who recently traveled abroad and contracted measles, and unvaccinated visitors to the United States who became ill and spread the disease to unvaccinated citizens. The increase in measles cases and outbreaks in the U.S. this year underscores the ongoing risk of importations of the disease and the need for high measles vaccine coverage.
Pediatricians at Ministry Medical Group Rhinelander warn that measles is a highly contagious, acute viral illness that is transmitted by contact with an infected person through coughing and sneezing. After an infected person leaves a location, the virus remains contagious for up to 2 hours on surfaces and in the air. Measles can cause severe health complications, including pneumonia, encephalitis and death.
Everyone who is not immune to measles is encouraged to get vaccinated. It’s recommended that children receive two doses of the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine: the first at 12-15 months of age, and again between 4-6 years. The effectiveness rate of two doses of measles vaccine in preventing measles is estimated to be about 90-95% and should provide lifelong immunity.
For those planning travel abroad, CDC recommends that all U.S. residents older that 6 months be protected from measles and receive the MMR vaccine, if needed, prior to departure. Infants 6-11 months should receive 1 dose before departure, children 12 months and older should have documentation of 2 doses of MMR (28 days apart) before departure. Teens and adults without evidence of immunity should have documentation of 2 appropriately spaced doses of MMR vaccine.
Most adults who were born before 1957 are protected against getting the measles because they had the virus when they were younger. Once you have had the measles, you are considered immune for life.
For more information about the measles, contact your local Health Department or go to http://oneidacountypublichealth.org or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vpd-vac/measles/default.htm.