Measles (Rubeola) is a viral disease which was considered eliminated in the United States in 2000 as a result of vaccination programs beginning in 1967. As a result of decreased vaccination rates in the U.S and exposure to the infection from foreign travelers, new Measles cases were reported in record numbers in 2014. Measles is highly contagious with an incubation period of 8-10 days. 75 percent of susceptible individuals exposed to the virus will develop the disease. The contagious period is from five days before the appearance of rash to four days afterwards. Infectious droplets from the respiratory secretions of a patient with measles can remain airborne for several hours, so person-to-person contact is not necessary to transmit measles. The illness begins with fever, cough, runny nose and red eyes. The typical rash begins within a few days on the face and spreads downward over the entire body. Serious complications of the disease include pneumonia, severe neurologic damage and death.
Facts you should know:
- Measles is still a common disease outside the U.S. causing 20 million cases and 122,000 deaths each year.
- Worldwide measles is the fifth most common cause of death in children under five years of age.
- Prior to vaccination in the U.S. there may have been as many as 4 million cases of measles per year.
- Vaccination programs in the U.S have reduced the incidence of disease by greater than 99%.
- Between 1967 and 1985 the live attenuated vaccine prevented about 52 million cases of measles, 5200 deaths, and 17,400 cases of mental retardation attributable to measles.
- Newborns are protected from Measles by their mother’s immunity until approximately 6 months of age. The first vaccination is for Measles, Mumps and Rubella together, usually at 12-15 months and the second at 4-6 years. High vaccination rates in communities protect infants and other vulnerable members of our communities from Measles infection.
- Measles in pregnancy was rare in the pre-vaccine era because childhood disease was common and provided lifelong protection.
- Measles in pregnancy is associated with severe complications for both mother and baby.
- Pregnant women cannot be vaccinated for Measles.
- Most measles outbreaks now in the U.S. are a result of disease imported from other countries affecting and spreading to un-immunized individuals. Most cases since 2008 have been from the European region.
Dispelling the Myths:
- “My child could get Autism from a vaccine.” –There is no evidence that vaccinations cause Autism.
- “Vaccines are too risky.” –Serious complications from vaccines are rare and much less common than serious complications from getting the disease for which the vaccination is given.
- “My child does not need to be vaccinated because everyone else is.”–Although Measles is considered to be eliminated in the United States, it is possible that measles could become endemic (constant presence of a disease in an area) again, especially if vaccine coverage levels drop. Research shows that people who refuse vaccines tend to group together in communities. When measles gets into communities with pockets of unvaccinated people, outbreaks are more likely to occur. These communities make it difficult to control the spread of the disease and make us vulnerable to having the virus re-establish itself in our country. This can happen when people
- forget to get vaccinated on time,
- don’t know that they need a vaccine dose (this is most common among adults), or
- refuse vaccines for religious, philosophical or personal reasons.
Be a responsible member of your community and make sure your children are vaccinated according to CDC guidelines. If you have reason to believe that you or a family member could have measles. Contact your doctor immediately by phone. Avoid coming to the doctor’s office or other crowded public places where the virus could be spread. Treatment is mostly supportive and monitoring for severe complications of the infection. For more information about Measles see the following links: