The number of cases of measles in 2014 is 288 as of May 23rd. This is the highest number since we thought the disease was eradicated in the United States in 2000. There have been fifteen outbreaks thus far this year, though fortunately no one has died.
Statistics: One in three cases of measles will result in a complication. It could be pneumonia, ear infections, diarrhea or encephalitis. One out of every twenty children who get the measles will develop the latter. Under the right conditions it can blind and it can kill.
How is the disease spread? This disease is extremely communicable. Not only is it possible to catch it when you’re with someone who has the disease, it can linger up to two hours after the infected person leaves. That means it’s not only a plane flight away, it could be on your shopping cart at the grocery store.
What are the symptoms? Fever, runny nose, sore throat, blotchy rash and sometimes white spots in the mouth are symptoms of the disease. The fever can get quite high, up to 104 degrees.
I was vaccinated as a kid, am I still protected? That depends on several factors, including whether or not you had a booster after you started school. Your doctor can test to see if there is any evidence of immunity. If there isn’t, you need a booster.
What about pregnant women? While you should talk to your OB, the measles vaccine is not usually given to pregnant women and it is recommended that a woman avoid pregnancy for at least 28 days after the shot.
How is the disease getting into the country: Most pockets of epidemics can be traced out of the United States. The current (as of May, 2014) cases seem to be coming from the Philippine Islands. They have an even larger problem with 20,000 cases reported.
What do I need to do to protect myself and my family? If your children haven’t been vaccinated, they need to be. You should also be tested to make sure you are safe. If you can’t remember being vaccinated or know that you haven’t been, you need to do so.
This isn’t just for your protection. Two thirds of those who develop the measles don’t develop complications, but the one third that does could die. The more of us who’ve been vaccinated the easier it will be to stop the epidemic.