2019 Measles Outbreak
There are outbreaks of measles throughout the United States; here are some thoughts from the infection prevention and control team at HonorHealth.
Dr. Laura Schroeder, Infectious Disease Medical Officer and Krystal Robinson, Network Director of Infection Prevention and Control at HonorHealth
Vaccines are scientifically proven safe, easy to access and affordable. Despite this, the United States is in the midst of a measles outbreak. The largest of which is occurring in New York. Nationally, cases continue to be identified and reported. This year, reports show case counts are already approaching twice the number of those in 2018. We are on a path headed toward the highest number of measles cases in the last decade.
While measles is very concerning and easily transmittable, in the event of an occurrence or outbreak, our response and best strategy will be simple: Identify, Isolate and Inform.
So, what is measles?
The first symptoms of measles are fevers, runny nose, cough and red eyes. After about three to five days, a rash usually develops with flat red spots that appear on the face at the hairline and spread downward to the neck, trunk, arms, legs and feet. Measles lives in the air up to two hours after an infected person breathes or coughs. It can be transmitted between people beginning four days before the rash develops until four days after. Many people can spread the measles before they know they are infected. One person can infect 13 to 15 others if they are not immune. About 1 in 20 kids will get pneumonia from the measles and about 1 in 1,000 kids will die from measles complications.
Why is it being called an outbreak?
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) defines an outbreak as three or more cases.
What about the vaccine?
The measles vaccine was developed in the 1960s through research and science. After widespread vaccination was started in the late 1960s, the measles was declared eliminated in 2000. Success! This even allows for others who cannot receive the vaccine because of health issues to be protected. This is known as herd immunity. One vaccination is 93% effective at preventing measles. Two doses are even better—97% effective.
If the vaccine is so effective, where is this coming from?
There is a long answer to this, but in short: the issue with the measles outbreak is not access or efficacy of vaccinations. Vaccines are free and pretty easy to get. The main reasons these outbreaks are occurring is an increase of unvaccinated travelers returning from abroad with measles and growing pockets of unvaccinated people within U.S. communities.
What can I do about this?
Remember that not all information that goes viral is accurate. Ensure you are informed with the facts from reliable sources, such as the CDC. Make sure you know whether your family has received the measles vaccine (MMR). If not, make sure to vaccinate yourself and your family though medical providers. The vast majority of measles cases are from people who did not get vaccinated. If just one person out of 10 doesn’t get vaccinated for measles, it can put a whole community at risk. Keep your records in order, if the outbreak continues you will want to have your vaccination information on hand.