More than 50 people, mostly children, have been infected by the measles in the United States this year. This particular outbreak concerns southwest Washington and northwest Oregon. Nationwide, though, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that eight other states (California, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Illinois, New Jersey, New York and Texas) have reported cases of measles in 2019, bringing the total of reported cases to 79.
What is measles?
Measles is a highly contagious illness caused by a virus called rubeola. People are most susceptible to contracting this illness in early childhood. In the current outbreak in Washington and Oregon, the majority of the cases involve children between 1 to 10 years old. Measles usually causes fatigue, runny nose, cough, slight fever, and head and back pains. In later stages, it can cause a high fever, Koplik’s spots (small white dots) inside the mouth and a rash that starts around the hairline and spreads downward.
Measles has a 25 percent hospitalization rate, is not treatable and has no cure. The virus can lead to serious complications, such as encephalitis, or inflammation of the brain. In some extremely severe cases, measles and its complications can be fatal.
How can the measles be prevented?
Measles can be prevented with the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine. This vaccine is typically given in two different doses, the first being administered between 12 to 15 months of age and the second being administered between 4 to 6 years of age. The CDC reports that the two doses together are 97 percent effective at preventing the disease, while just getting one dose is 93 percent effective at preventing the disease.
Without being vaccinated, you’re at risk of contracting measles, especially because it is a highly contagious illness. If you live in an area that’s experiencing a measles outbreak, call your doctor for recommendations on what to do. Your doctor may recommend staying in your house until the outbreak subsides.