With the recent outbreak of measles in Memphis, there has been a ton of media coverage of the outbreak but not much basic information about the measles. We have been getting a lot of calls from concerned All Better parents with all sorts of questions about the measles and what an outbreak means for their kids’ health. So, let’s talk measles.
What is it?
Measles is an easily spread respiratory infection caused by a virus. Initial symptoms are similar to a bad cold or flu with cough, fever, and runny nose, followed by the tell-tale rash that starts at the head and then spreads downward. Measles is highly contagious starting about 4 days before the rash appears and for at least 4 days after the rash starts.
How does it spread?
Measles spreads when a person breathes in or touches fluids from an infected person, such as droplets propelled by a sneeze or cough. Often, there is a delay between exposure and advent of symptoms; it can take as many as 8-10 days for an infected person to exhibit signs of the virus.
Are my kids at risk?
If your child has had a single measles vaccination, he or she will be immune to the disease 94% of the time. With two rounds of the vaccine, 97% immunity is achieved.
Choosing not to vaccinate? As long as your child does not have an existing disease (such as cancer) and is not immunocompromised, he will likely recover fine if he does get the measles. Prognosis is excellent in most cases.
The people at highest risk of getting measles during an outbreak are infants, pregnant women and people with weakened immune systems. And for infants in particular, there can be some very serious complications from measles: bronchitis, pneumonia and encephalitis. Encephalitis, an infection of the brain, is easily the most serious possible complication of measles, often leading to convulsions, hearing loss and mental retardation.
How can I keep my kids healthy?
As mentioned, The MMR (Measles/Mumps/Rubella) vaccine gives a high level of immunity after even just one dose, usually given at 12-15 months of age. Also, young infants do carry some immunity passed on from their mother at birth if mom was immunized or had measles in the past.
If you choose not to vaccinate your infant or your child is not a candidate for the vaccine (due to allergies or an existing disease or a weakened immune system), it would be wise to limit your baby’s exposure to other unvaccinated children/adults, and strangers in general, until the outbreak is over.
The prognosis for most healthy individuals is quite good and most patients will have gained immunity once recovered.
Still have questions?
Of course and as always, we are here to help. If you have questions that we haven’t answered here please give us a call: 901-761-1880.