The Dallas County Health department has recently notified me that there have been 2 cases of measles in the Dallas area (June 2013) and there have been 9 new cases reported in Ft. Worth as well. Because of this, all doctors in our area have been asked to be vigilant about vaccinating as well as considering a measles diagnosis when the presenting symptoms are compatible. Measles is a viral illness that causes fever, runny nose, cough, conjunctivitis and a whole body red rash. People with measles are sick, and there may be associated complications including pneumonia, ear infections, encephalitis and even death.
Unfortunately, DFW is not the only area with measles. The United States has already had 129 cases of measles this year (as compared to only 54 cases in 2012). There have been “pockets” of measles reported in New York city (58 cases) and in North Carolina as well.
Most of the cases of measles in the United States have been “imported” by those who have travelled outside of the country and upon their return developed measles. Measles, like some other illnesses, has not been eradicated in many parts of the world. Jet travel allows diseases to be easily imported from all around the globe - just a plane ride can expose hundreds of people who then can go on to expose even more. The European Union alone has reported 8,500 cases of measles in the past 12 months.
Vaccines are the mainstay for infectious disease prevention. Children receive a MMR (mumps, measles, rubella) vaccine at ages 1 year and 4 years. While very effective, 2-5% of people do not respond to the first dose of vaccine and require the “booster” dose to be immune. 99% of those who receive 2 doses of vaccine are immune. Children under the age of 1 year, and children and adults who have not been immunized (and have not had the disease) are at the greatest risk for developing measles.
Measles is highly contagious (the virus is spread by respiratory droplets) and has an incubation period of 7-18 days. Those with measles are contagious from 4 days before they develop the rash (typically when they are diagnosed) and up to 4 days after the rash has resolved. A lengthy period of time.
So...with everyone getting ready for school, what better time to make sure your child HAS BEEN IMMUNIZED. And. if you are traveling outside of the country with your child who is under the age of 1 year, check with your doctor and ask about giving an early measles vaccine. The measles outbreak may continue to spread unless your child is vaccinated.