A confirmed case of measles in Fairfax County has reminded us that, though it’s fairly rare today, it’s best that parents stay informed about this contagious disease.
Once quite common, measles was considered by medical professionals to have been eliminated from the United States.“Eliminated” means that there is a “reduction to zero of the incidence of a specified disease in a defined geographical area as a result of deliberate efforts; continued intervention measures are required.”
However, due to their prevalence in other areas of the world, diseases like measles can be reintroduced to an area where it is considered eliminated. In fact, health officials recently confirmed a case of a child with measles in Fairfax County, Virginia, according to the USA Today.
Following the diagnosis, the Fairfax County Health Department began an investigation to determine where the child came into contact with measles. The name, age and gender of the child were not released. Authorities have shared information about what locations the child visited, while contagious, in order to alert people who may have been exposed. The list on WTOP details all at-risk locations.
Infants and unvaccinated children are particularly vulnerable to this disease. But the good news is that vaccination has proven to be a highly successful method of protection. The measles vaccine is about 97% effective after the recommended doses have been administered, according to the CDC.
The Facts About Measles
Before the U.S. measles vaccination program started in 1963, the CDC claimed that, “about 3 to 4 million people got measles each year.” The Mayo Clinic notes that “today, the United States averages about 60 cases of measles a year, and most of them originate outside the country.”
Measles spreads through the air, and when an infected person coughs or sneezes, they can easily infect those around them. For up to two hours after an infected person has left a room, unvaccinated people entering the space are vulnerable to contract the infection.
The severity of the disease varies from patient to patient. As the CDC explains, some people may experience “just a little rash and fever that clears up in a few days,” while others may have serious health complications. “About one in four people in the U.S. who get measles will be hospitalized.” While it is a serious disease, only roughly “one or two out of 1,000 people with measles will die.”
How to Protect Against Measles
Parents can protect their children against measles with the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine. According to the CDC, this vaccine provides “long-lasting protection against all strains of measles.” The MMR vaccine requires two doses for maximum effectiveness. The first dose is administered when a child is 12-15 months old, and the second dose at 4-6 years old.
Doctors and scientists are emphatic about the safety and efficacy of the MMR vaccine.. Robert Bednarczyk of Emory University, who led work on a recent study about gaps in measles vaccine coverage, had this to say to NBC News: “We know some parents have concerns about vaccines and may want to avoid or delay vaccination… In fact, the vaccine is very safe, while not vaccinating is highly risky, leaving their children — and others — vulnerable to a serious illness that can cause a large number of complications.”
About one in eight children (infants through 17-year-olds) are at risk for measles due to gaps in vaccination rates, reports CBS News. This number includes both unvaccinated children and children whose vaccinations have been delayed.
What Parents Need to Know
In recent years, there has been an increase in the number of reported cases of measles. The CDC attributes this to “more measles cases than usual in some countries to which Americans often travel” and “more spreading of measles in U.S. communities with pockets of unvaccinated people.”
If you become aware that your child has been exposed to measles, or if you recognize measles symptoms — fever, rash, runny nose, and red eyes — you should seek care from a doctor immediately. Mayo Clinic offers some tips on how to prepare for your appointment.
While measles is a very concerning illness, don’t let financial concerns or long appointment wait times prevent you from seeing a doctor right away. SingleCare has a network of pediatricians and internists to ensure that you can get preventative treatment, including vaccinations.
With SingleCare, you have quick access to first-rate treatment at fair pre-negotiated rates. Getting the best care for your family doesn’t have to break the bank. Find out more about how SingleCare works.
(Main image credit: angelacolac/Thinkstock)