January 29, 2019 | by Amy Treakle MD

The Washington State Department of Health reported a measles outbreak this month in Clark County. As of January 28, 2019, there were 35 confirmed cases and 11 suspected cases in Clark County and one confirmed case in King County. Many of the cases were unvaccinated children. Measles is highly contagious in unvaccinated children and adults.

What are symptoms of measles?

The initial symptoms include:

  • fever of more than 101 degrees
  • cough
  • runny nose
  • red, watery eyes
  • A rash typically occurs two to four days afterwards. Measles rashes often include flat red areas with small red bumps – they typically start at the hairline, move to the face, and then spread rapidly down the body.

How long does measles typically last?

Measles usually last 7 to 10 days.

How can I protect my child or myself?

The MMR vaccine protects against the measles, mumps, and rubella viruses. If you or your child hasn’t had the MMR vaccine series, contact your health care provider or call your local health department.

Should I have my child vaccinated earlier than typically recommended?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) vaccine schedule for children calls for children to receive the first dose of measles vaccine at 1 year and the second dose at 4 to 6 years. No change to this schedule has been recommended based on this outbreak. Specific questions can be directed to your primary care provider or pediatrician.

If my child or family member has symptoms of measles, what should I do?

Stay home, avoid contact with other people, and call your health care provider for advice. To reduce spreading the disease, do not bring your child to the doctor’s office or emergency room without calling first to tell them you want your child evaluated.

People who are born during or after 1957 who do not have evidence of immunity against measles should get at least one dose of MMR vaccine. College students or international travelers should have a second dose, no sooner than 28 days after the first dose.

Is measles a serious disease?

Measles causes rash, fever, cough and red, watery eyes. Common complications from measles include ear infection, bronchopneumonia, laryngotracheobronchitis (croup), and diarrhea.

Even in previously healthy children, measles can cause serious illness requiring hospitalization.

  • One out of every 1,000 measles cases will develop acute encephalitis, which often results in permanent brain damage.
  • One or two out of every 1,000 children who become infected with measles will die from respiratory and neurologic complications.
  • Subacute sclerosing panencephalitis (SSPE) is a rare, but fatal degenerative disease of the central nervous system characterized by behavioral and intellectual deterioration and seizures that generally develop 7 to 10 years after measles infection.

Those most at risk for complications include:

  • infants and children under 5 years
  • adults over 20 years
  • pregnant women
  • people with weakened immune systems from drugs or underlying disease

For more information, visit the Washington State Department of Health website: https://www.doh.wa.gov/YouandYourFamily/IllnessandDisease/Measles/Measle...

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Written By: Amy Treakle MD