Measles is a highly contagious, infectious, viral disease. As a result of generally high vaccination rates, the U.S. declared that measles had been eliminated in 2000. However, over the past few years, outbreaks have occurred in California, Minnesota and New York. Earlier this year, Washington State officials declared a state of emergency as they worked to contain a measles outbreak in two counties. Cases were also confirmed in Multnomah County, Ore. The majority of people who get measles have not been vaccinated.
Measles symptoms include a high fever, often greater than 104 degrees, and cold-like symptoms. A rash begins several days after the fever starts, beginning on the back and spreading to the head and neck before covering most of the body. The rash is often itchy and uncomfortable.
Measles can be serious and even fatal for small children. While death rates have been falling worldwide as more children receive the measles vaccination, the disease still kills more than 100,000 people a year, most under the age of 5. Measles is highly contagious and can be contracted without even being near a person with the virus because it lingers for up to two hours in the air where a person with measles has been.
The disease can be prevented with the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that children get two doses of the vaccination, with the first dose at 12-15 months of age and the second dose at 4-6 years of age. Teens and adults should also be current on their MMR vaccination.
The MMR vaccine is very effective at protecting people against disease. People who received two doses of MMR vaccine as children are considered protected for life.
- The MMR shot is very safe, and most individuals who receive it have no side effects. The side effects that do occur are usually very mild, such as a low-grade fever, rash, or soreness or swelling at the injection site.
- According to the CDC, studies have shown that there is no link between the MMR vaccine and autism. Recently released results of a Danish study, which analyzed data collected from 657,461 children born in Denmark between 1999 and 2010, also found no evidence that the vaccine increases the risk of autism.
- The MMR vaccine does not “shed”; recently immunized individuals do not have to worry about spreading measles, mumps and rubella to others. Measles can spread only when people are actually sick with the virus and showing symptoms.
Southcentral Foundation (SCF) offers health and wellness services for Alaska Native and American Indian people living in Anchorage, the Matanuska- Susitna Borough and nearby villages. It also provides regional support to residents of 55 rural villages in the Anchorage Service Unit.
SCF offers vaccines throughout all stages of life, including MMR vaccinations and boosters. For information or to schedule an appointment, visit www.southcentralfoundation.com or call (907) 729-4955 / (800) 478-3343.