A healthy living blog from Marshfield Clinic

What you need to know about measles

Measles graphic with illustrated medical kit

Editor’s note: This post was updated April 2019 to reflect current data. 

Once again, measles is in the U.S. with more than 700 confirmed cases, according to the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC).

Measles outbreaks are ongoing in New York State, New York City, New Jersey, California, Washington and Michigan. According to the CDC, these outbreaks are linked to travelers who brought measles back from other countries like Israel, Philippines and Ukraine. Wisconsin has no confirmed cases, but cases have been identified in neighboring states – Illinois and Michigan.

Despite some public figures denouncing vaccinations and general discussion surrounding whether a person should get a vaccination based on potential or perceived side effects, the decision to vaccinate is easy when considering the facts.

Vaccines have saved millions of lives and no scientific evidence exists linking vaccines to autism.

Dr. Michael Sullivan, Marshfield Clinic Health System pediatrician, provided key facts regarding measles.

What you should know:

  • Measles is very contagious. It can spread before a person develops a rash. It can spread through the air, even several hours after the infected person has left a room.
  • Measles isn’t just a rash. One in 20 people with measles will develop bacterial pneumonia. One in 10 will develop a middle ear infection. For every 1,000 people who get measles, one or two people will die as a result.
  • Measles is prevented by a safe and effective vaccine. This vaccine is part of the routine, recommended childhood vaccine schedule.
  • Young infants and people with weak immune systems cannot receive the vaccine. They depend on others around them to be vaccinated to keep them safe.
  • People and parents of children over 1 year of age who have not been vaccinated should discuss with their doctor whether vaccination is appropriate for them.
  • Of the outbreaks ongoing in 2019, travelers are linked to the spread. Make sure you are vaccinated against measles before traveling internationally.
  • Measles is spread person-to-person via airborne and direct contact with bodily secretions such as mucus and saliva.
  • Remember, measles is extremely infectious, but the disease may be prevented if the vaccine is given within 72 hours of exposure.

With increased publicity and media coverage, patients who visit Marshfield Clinic Health System locations asking for a measles vaccination will be assessed per CDC guidelines, said Dr. Rana Nasser, an infectious disease specialist at the Health System.

In most cases, if patients have not received the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices and the CDC recommend vaccination. Patients should talk to their provider about any questions regarding measles.

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