Dear Doc | Worried about the return of Measles
Q. Dear Doc
I have been concerned about news I heard about measles in foreign. I thought that disease was no longer around, but now I am hearing it has come back somewhere in foreign. I am worried. I am migrating there soon with my child and want to know how somebody can catch it. How you know if you catch it, and if there is anything I can do to protect her and myself from catching it.
A. Indeed there has been a lot of talk in the news and social media about measles lately, particularly the outbreak currently in the United States, particularly in New York. All of this has caused concern to many parents such as yourself, wondering what you as a parent really need to know about this disease.
Here a few important facts
1) Measles can be serious
Because in this region, it is very uncommon because of our vaccination practices, many of us who have never seen measles, thinks of is as just a little rash and fever that clears up in a few days. This is not so, and measles can cause serious health complications, especially in children younger than five years of age. The bad part about measles is that there is no way to tell in advance how severe the symptoms your child will experience will be.
According to the Centre for Disease Control (CDC), about one in four people in the U.S., who get measles will be hospitalised, and one out of every 1,000 people with measles will develop brain swelling, which could lead to brain damage.
One to two persons out of 1,000 people with measles will die, even with the best care.
2) Signs and symptoms of Measles
The symptoms of measles generally appear about seven to 14 days after a person is infected.
Measles symptoms typically begins with:
red, watery eyes
Then, two to three days after symptoms begin, tiny white spots called Koplik Spots, may appear inside the mouth.
Three to five days after symptoms begin, a skin rash breaks out. It usually begins as flat red spots that appear on the face at the hairline, then spreads to the neck, trunk, arms, legs and feet. Small raised bumps may also appear on top of the flat red spots. The flat spots may become joined together as they spread from the head to the rest of the body. When the rash appears, the fever may spike to more than 104° Fahrenheit.
3) Measles is very contagious
Measles spreads through the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes. It is so contagious that if one person has it, nine out of 10 people around him or her will also become infected if they are not protected. Your child can get measles just by being in a room where a person with measles has been, even up to two hours after that person has left the room. An infected person can spread measles to others even before knowing they have the disease, being able to spread it from four days before they develop the measles rash through their infection and up to four days afterwards.
4) Your child could get measles in United States
Measles was declared eliminated from the U.S., in 2000 due to their vaccination program. However, measles is still common in many other parts of the world, such as in Europe, Asia, the Pacific and Africa. Even if you do not travel internationally, you could come into contact with measles anywhere from unvaccinated foreign travelers, who get measles while they are in other countries.
Anyone who is not protected against measles is at risk.
5) How to protect against Measles
The best protection against measles is the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine. The MMR vaccine provides long-lasting protection against all strains of measles.
Your child needs two doses of MMR vaccine for best protection:
The first dose at 12 - 15 months of age
The second dose 4 - 6 years of age
For you who will be traveling overseas, the vaccine recommendations are a little different:
If your child is 6 - 11 months old, they should receive 1 dose of MMR vaccine before leaving.
If your child is 12 months of age or older, he or she will need 2 doses of MMR vaccine (separated by at least 28 days) before departure.
The measles vaccine is very effective. One dose of measles vaccine is about 93% effective at preventing measles if exposed to the virus. Two doses are about 97% effective.
6)Make Sure You are Protected against Measles before International Travel
Before any international travel, teenagers and adults who do not have evidence of immunity against measles should get two doses of MMR vaccine separated by at least 28 days.
Acceptable evidence of immunity against measles includes at least one of the following: written documentation of adequate vaccination (your vaccination card), laboratory evidence of immunity.
Speak with your healthcare provider and your child’s peediatrician about vaccination before migrating.