Measles: what you need to know

MMR vaccine is your best defense

Measles is a viral infection that causes high fevers, cough, runny nose, red and watery eyes, and fatigue. A red rash starts on the face and spreads down the body within a few days. It is spread through the air by respiratory droplets caused by coughing or sneezing. The virus can stay in the air for up to two hours after a sick person is in the room. This makes measles a very contagious illness that spreads rapidly. Symptoms typically start one to two weeks after exposure. Measles can be very serious; complications can include ear infections, diarrhea, pneumonia, encephalitis (brain swelling) and death.

Routine immunizations are the most important way to protect you and your family from measles. The MMR vaccine protects against measles along with mumps and rubella. The vaccine has been studied extensively and has been found to be safe and effective. One dose of the MMR vaccine is 93 percent effective at preventing measles after exposure and two doses increases the effectiveness to 97 percent.

The CDC now recommends infants six months and older receive a MMR vaccine at least two weeks prior to any international travel. If an infant receives MMR vaccine prior to 12 months old, the child will still need routine immunization at 12 months with a booster dose at ages four to five. Make sure all people who have contact with infants less than 12 months old are vaccinated to help prevent spread to infants too young for vaccination. Getting the MMR vaccine now and receiving the second dose in 28 days can protect anyone older than 12 months who is not immunized. Adults born during or after 1957 should make sure they have documentation of immunity and if not, get one dose of MMR vaccine. Speak with your doctor if you are unsure if you are up to date on all immunizations, including the MMR vaccine.

Elizabeth Loconto, DO, pediatrician, sees patients at Mercyhealth East in Janesville. To schedule an appointment, call (608) 756-7100.

References: CDC website, www.CDC.gov/measles

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