What You Need to Know Now

You’ve read the headlines and you can’t believe it. Could measles really be coming back? Most people have been vaccinated and are immune to measles, which means that they can be exposed to someone with an active, contagious measles infection and not get it.  

Measles is a virus and can be spread easily from exposure to the infected droplets from coughs and sneezes from someone infected. The measles virus can remain infectious in the air up to 2 hours after the infected person leaves the area. 

Here’s the key!  

A person can be infectious 4 days before they develop the typical measles rash and unknowingly pass the infection on to others. 

Most adults have been vaccinated, but aren’t sure if they’re still immune and need a booster. Or maybe you’re not sure if you were vaccinated.  What should you do? First, don’t panic, get the information you need right here.

Signs of Measles

Fever – can go as high as 105 and appears 3-4 days BEFORE the rash

Rash – starts about 2 weeks after the person has been exposed

The 3 C’s for diagnosis:  Cough, Conjuctivitis, Coryza – runny nose

When is Measles contagious?

People are contagious 4 days before the rash starts through the first 4 days of the rash.

Who is most at risk?

People at high risk for a severe measles infection and complications are:

  • Infants and children aged 5 years and younger – high fevers are dangerous to their developing brains
  • Pregnant women – can cause miscarriage, a premature delivery and a baby with measles
  • People with compromised immune systems, such as from leukemia and HIV infection
  • Adults over 20 – This is pretty much everyone.

When is Measles Dangerous?

In a few rare cases, about 1 person in 1000, the person with measles will develop a severe brain infection, known as encephalitis, which can lead to brain damage and death. 

Before the measles vaccine was available in 1963, there were about 500,000 people who contracted measles and about 500 people died each year. 

Why is this happening now?

The outbreaks of measles that are occurring now are among people who were not vaccinated or whose immunity has diminished.  

Unfortunately, a few years ago, there were people who did not believe that vaccines for measles and other illness were necessary and others who believed that the vaccine caused autism in children. That has been disproven over and over again and again. 

Now, with people traveling all over the world, there is a higher chance that a person who is from a country with low vaccination rates, and who was not vaccinated and has measles is mingling with people in places like amusement parks and public areas and spreading the infection. 

Then when an unvaccinated person gets exposed to measles, they can develop the infection, not have any symptoms, return to their community and infect other people. 

Suspect measles, if there’s a high fever and:

  • You have been traveling outside the country where measles is more prevalent
  • You live in a community where measles is currently occurring
  • You have not been vaccinated
  • You’re not sure about your immunity

Nurse Barb’s tips:  If you’re concerned, don’t know if you’re immune, or going out of the country, do ask your healthcare provider to order a measles titer for you.  I just had mine done because I’m traveling to volunteer in Tanzania where there are many more cases of measles than other countries.

If you need a booster, you’ll most likely receive the MMR, which will boost your immunity to Measles, Mumps, and Rubella.

Measles Vaccine

The measles vaccine is highly effective and it is safe for adults and children to receive. There is no association with autism. This has been proven countless times.

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