Measles was declared eliminated in 2000 in the U.S., but the dangerous virus is making a comeback through imported cases. It’s a serious health concern for communities and especially dangerous for young children. While many still think measles is just a simple rash and fever, about 1 in 4 people who get measles will be hospitalized, 1 out of every 1,000 people with measles will experience brain swelling, which can lead to brain damage, and 1 or 2 out of every 1,000 will die even with good medical care.
Symptoms of measles generally won’t appear until about 7 to 14 days after a person is infected which means the virus can spread quickly when a person doesn’t realize they’re sick. Typical symptoms include:
- High fever
- Rash – Flat or raised red spots starting on the face and spread to the neck, truck, arms, and legs
- Runny nose
- Red, watery eyes
- White spots inside the mouth
The best protection against measles is the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine. The vaccine is safe and has been proven to be the most effective way to provide protection against all strains of measles.
Children should get two doses of MMR vaccine, starting with the first dose at 12 to 15 months of age and the second dose at 4 to 6 years of age, although the second dose can be given as early as 1 month after the first dose. Teens and adults should also be up to date on their vaccines.
The MMR vaccine can be administered by your local health care provider, some pharmacies, and your state and local health departments.
The duration of a measles outbreak depends on the level of vaccination in the communities where the outbreak is occurring and how quickly contacts are identified and quarantined.
It’s important to stay at home for 4 days after the measles rash develops. Since the rash tends not to appear for 14 days after being exposed, those who’ve been exposed who are not immune can be infecting others without knowing they have the virus and need to limit their contact with others in order to prevent the spread of the virus.
The faster a community becomes fully vaccinated, the faster the outbreak can be stopped.