5 Answers to your Questions about the Measles Outbreak
It is important to know there are no known cases of measles in Louisiana, but a recent outbreak in other parts of the country has sparked some questions about the measles illness and vaccination. Dr. Michael Bolton, pediatric infectious disease specialist at Our Lady of the Lake Children’s Hospital, answers your questions and stresses the importance of getting the vaccination.
1. What are the measles and how is it spread? Measles is a viral illness that can cause severe health complications, including pneumonia, encephalitis and death. Measles is spread by contact with an infected person through coughing and sneezing. Infected people are contagious from four days before and four days after the rash appears. After an infected person leaves a location, the virus can live for up to two hours on surfaces and in the air. Symptoms of the measles include:
Red, watery eyes
Feeling run down, achy
Rash that appears as flat, discolored areas and solid, red, raised areas that join together
Small white spots with bluish-white centers found inside the mouth
2. How is a measles outbreak started, and is there an outbreak in Louisiana? As of February 16, 2015, there are no known cases of the measles in Louisiana.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the United States experienced a record number of measles cases during 2014 and is continuing into 2015. This is the greatest number of cases since measles elimination was documented in the U.S. in 2000. The majority of the people who got measles from the outbreak were not vaccinated.
3. What can I do to prevent the measles?
My recommendation is to get vaccinated, if you have not been previously vaccinated and to vaccinate your children. Research has confirmed the measles vaccine as safe and effective.
4. Which strain of measles are we seeing in this epidemic, and is the vaccine still effective? We are seeing the same strain of measles that we have always seen. That is why the vaccine continues to be effective. The vaccine used today has remained unchanged because it still protects measles person from contracting the measles virus.
5. If I already had the measles, am I protected from getting the virus again? You are protected from getting the measles if you have had any of the following:
two doses of the MMR vaccine at any point in your life
a blood test confirming you have immunity against measles
a blood test confirming that you had the measles at any point in your life
If you can’t find any immunization or blood test records, you can ask your doctor to check your immune status against measles.