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What Do Parents Need to Know about Measles?

Posted on Aug 20, 2018

Rachel Dawkins, M.D.
With the recent local cases of measles, parents need to know more about this disease. Rachel Dawkins, M.D., from Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital explains the top things parents need to know about measles.

Why should parents be concerned about this virus in particular?

Measles is a respiratory virus and may just be fever and a rash in some patients. But others can have very serious complications. Kids younger than 5 are at greatest risk. One in four kids who get measles will be hospitalized. Two in 1,000 will die or have severe brain injury, even if they get immediate care.

Pregnant women, older adults and people with immune compromise such as those with cancer are also at risk for getting measles.

What are the symptoms of measles?
  • High fever, as high as 105 degrees
  • Cough
  • Runny nose
  • Red eyes
  • Rash; there are particular spots in the mouth that suggest measles and a head-to-toe rash. The rash is a late sign and shows up long after the other symptoms.
Measles is spread via droplets like a sneeze or cough. Measles is so contagious that if an infected person sneezes, nine out of the 10 people around them will get measles if they aren’t vaccinated. A person with measles is contagious for three weeks.

Why are we seeing more cases of measles these days?

Because of vaccination, measles was eliminated from the United States in 2000. However, due to decreases in rates of vaccination and cases of measles coming to the United States from international travel, measles is making a comeback.

How can parents prevent their child from getting measles?

The best protection is vaccination! The measles, mumps and rubella vaccine is given at 1 and 4 years old, and provides long-lasting protection against measles. Also vaccinating provides “herd immunity,” which protects babies and those with compromised immune systems.

If your child is unimmunized or not caught up on his or her vaccinations, it’s not too late to make sure the child is protected from this or any other vaccine-preventable illness. Vaccines are available from your pediatrician or local health department.

This information was shared on WTVT-TV’s Doc on Call segment, which is aimed at helping parents learn more about children’s health issues. The segment airs each Monday morning on Good Day Tampa Bay.

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