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Georgia Braces Against Measles Outbreak

February 17, 2015
A nurse listens to boy's heart.

Over the course of the last several months, the United States has been experiencing an outbreak of the measles virus. More than 100 cases have been reported in 17 states and the District of Columbia, most of which can be traced to an initial outbreak in December at Disneyland Park in California.

Recently, Georgia announced its first case since 2012 – although it resulted from international travel and was unrelated to the larger outbreak that began in California. Many Georgians are understandably concerned. In order to protect you and your loved ones, there are a few things you should know.

Measles is a highly contagious virus.

The virus can remain on a surface or in the air of a room where a contagious person has sneezed or coughed for up to 2 hours. And a person who has the measles can be contagious for up to 4 days before their rash even appears, as well as for 4 days after the rash has appeared.

Measles can be prevented by the MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine, which is 97-98% effective.

MMR (or sometimes MMRV when combined with the varicella, or chicken pox, vaccine) prevents the vast majority of children and adults from being infected with measles. Children should receive 2 doses of MMR, with the first being administered between the ages of 12-15 months and the second being given between 4 to 6 years of age (or 4 weeks after the first dose, in the case of an outbreak).

Adults who have not received the MMR vaccine should see their local health care provider for the vaccine, especially if they were born in 1957 or later. Health care workers should receive 2 doses of MMR to ensure that they are protected as well.

Complications from measles can be deadly.

Severe complications are most commonly found in children 5 and younger, unvaccinated adults, unvaccinated pregnant women, and people with compromised immune systems. Complications can include diarrhea, pneumonia, inflammation of the brain, seizures and death.

What are the symptoms of measles?

Early on, a measles infection looks much like a common cold with symptoms such as coughing, a runny nose, watery eyes, a sore throat and a fever. Over the course of 5 days, symptoms escalate from cold-like to an intense full body rash of red bumps and a very high fever.

If your child has been exposed to measles, call your doctor immediately. An unvaccinated child can receive MMR up to 3 days after exposure to the virus.

Vaccination is key to combating the measles virus and ensuring outbreaks are kept in check, especially those that are introduced from countries where the virus is still prevalent. When you vaccinate, you are protecting many more people than just your own child. There are people you interact with every day in public places that may have compromised immune systems for any number of reasons. By keeping your child up to date on all their vaccinations, not just MMR, you are helping to create a safer community where these kinds of diseases can be prevented and hopefully eradicated.

About the Author

A Georgia native, Rachael Wheeler works as a Blogger for GeorgiaGov. She writes about a variety of current topics relevant to the Georgia government.

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