Three important facts to know about measles.
By Tenille L. Lawson, PharmD, BCPS
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports 1,203 measles cases nationwide as of August 15, 2019. This number of cases is the highest report since 2000 the year measles was declared eliminated in the United States. Although reports are highest in New York, California, and Washington, a case in Jefferson County, Missouri, reported in March 2019, made Missouri the 13th state to confirm exposure. The CDC confirms the U.S. has seen more cases of measles in the first five months of 2019 than in any full year since 1992. Young children are especially vulnerable to the spread of measles. Here are three significant facts every parent should know about this highly contagious infection.
Fact #1: Measles is not a harmless childhood illness.
Since measles was eliminated from this country almost 20 years ago, many parents today are unaware of the serious complications children may experience from the disease. According to the CDC, it causes about one out of every ten children to suffer from ear infections that lead to permanent hearing loss. Hospitalizations to treat pneumonia, convulsions, and encephalitis (brain swelling) associated with some cases of measles can lead to fatal outcomes in young children.
Fact #2: There is no cure.
Measles is a virus that begins in the respiratory system before infecting other areas of the body; therefore, symptoms may not appear until 7 to 14 days after exposure. Initially, fevers can spike up to 105OF, followed by a cough, runny nose, conjunctivitis (pink eye), and mouth sores. Three to five days later, a rash appears that gradually covers the entire body. According to The March of Dimes, there is no cure or specific treatment for children with measles. Parents should alleviate symptoms with pain relievers, plenty of water and rest. Children may not recover from the illness for several weeks after infection.
Fact #3: Safe and effective vaccines are the best protection for children.
Unfortunately, up to 90% of unvaccinated people will become infected if exposed to measles according to the CDC. Measles spreads quickly through the air, with a cough or sneeze, to those who may be unaware of the transmission. Children who are vaccinated appropriately, however, have long-lasting protection against all types of measles. The American Academy of Pediatrics supports providing children who are 12 to 15 months an initial dose of measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine followed by a final dose at 4 to 6 years old. Visit cdc.gov/measles to learn more about ways to protect your child from measles in your area.