You may have heard a lot about measles in the news lately. We want to set the facts straight and make sure that you know the important points about measles, including getting vaccinated and how to protect your child.
What is Measles?
Measles is a highly contagious respiratory disease caused by a virus. It spreads through the air via coughing and sneezing. Measles starts with a fever, runny nose, cough, red eyes, and sore throat, and is followed by a rash that spreads all over the body. About three out of 10 people who get measles will develop one or more complications including pneumonia, ear infections, or diarrhea. Complications are more common in adults and young children. (Source: CDC)
Common complications include ear infections which can lead to permanent hearing loss as well as diarrhea.
Severe complications, such as pneumonia and encephalitis (brain swelling) can result in hospitalization. For every 1,000 children that get measles, one or two will die from it. (Source: CDC)
Signs and Symptoms
People infected with measles typically see symptoms after 14 days of being infected.
Measles typically begins with:
- high fever,
- runny nose (coryza)
- red, watery eyes (conjunctivitis)
Two or three days after symptoms begin, tiny white spots may appear inside the infected person's mouth.
Three to five days after symptoms begin, the infected person will break out in a rash, starting with flat red spots on face and near hairline. The rash will gradually spread downward to the neck, trunk, arms, legs and feet. When the rash appears, a person's fever may spike to more than 104 Fahrenheit.
After a few days, the fever diminishes and the rash fades. (Source: CDC)
What Can I Do To Avoid Contracting Measles?
If you are an adult, and cannot find records of receiving the vaccine as a child, you should be vaccinated again.
In the US, children are routinely vaccinated at 12-15 months after birth. If vaccinated before this time, for reasons such as international travel, infants should be revaccinated after their first birthday.
Vaccines for adults and children two months or older are given with 2 doses, separated by at least 28 days.
In addition to getting vaccinated, it is important to always practice hygiene and cleanliness. (Source: CDC)
Separating Fact Form Fiction
“Vaccines cause autism.”This is false.
Signs of autism typically appear around the same time that children are recommended to receive the MMR vaccine. Some may think that a recent vaccine is the cause for autism. Vaccine safety experts, including experts at CDC and the American Academy of Pediatrics, agree that MMR vaccine is not responsible for increases in the number of children with autism. In 2004, a scientific review by the Institute of Medicine concluded that there is no link between autism and MMR vaccine, and that there is no link between autism and vaccines that contain a preservative called thimerosal. (Source: CDC)
In 1998, an article published in Lancet Journal reported findings from then Dr. Andrew Wakefield linking vaccines to autism. This report has been thoroughly discredited after the sloppy methodology of that report was exposed. This article was later retracted by Lancet in 2010. Wakefield was also stripped of his medical license as a result of it.
“Getting vaccinated is a social responsibility.” This is true.
In reality, measles is one of the leading causes of death among young children even though a safe and cost-effective vaccine is available. But failing to not vaccinate also poses a risk to people other than your child. People with illnesses like leukemia, other cancers, heart problems, or even some children with asthma are too sick to get vaccines. The health of these people can be directly affected by those who choose not to vaccinate.
“Measles is easily spread.” This is true.
Measles is so contagious that if one person has it, 90% of the people close to that person who are not immune will also become infected. (Source: CDC)
Transmission of Measles
Measles is a highly contagious virus that lives in the mucus areas (nose and throat) of the infected person and can be spread via coughing and sneezing. This virus has an external life of up to two hours meaning if someone touches a contaminated surface and then touches their eyes, noses or mouths, they can become infected. It can also linger in the air.
There is a risk of infected people spreading the disease anytime from four day before to four days after the rash appears.
The measles virus cannot be spread by any other animal species. (Source: CDC)