Measles Outbreak In 2019: Signs and Symptoms

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Let's talk about the measles outbreak. The measles was eliminated from the United States in the year 2000, but now we are having a measles outbreak, with over 700 cases and counting. If you do not have the measles vaccine and you're exposed to the measles virus, you have over a 90% chance of getting measles. Today, I'm going to talk about the measles outbreak in 2019. I'll also talk about the dangers, signs, and symptoms of measles. I'm also going to discuss the cruise ship quarantine, the Brady Bunch, and the measles vaccine. Should you get it? Should you let your children get it?


What Are The Measles?

The measles is a highly contagious airborne viral infection. It is preventable by vaccine. It was eliminated in the United States in the year 2000, but we now have another outbreak. Now, what is an outbreak? An outbreak occurs when you have three reported illnesses within a community or district within one month. For this most recent outbreak, we had one case of a patient who was not vaccinated and lived in New York. That patient traveled to Israel, presumably got the infection while out of the country, returned to New York and developed symptoms of the measles, and then an outbreak developed.


We've also just recently had a cruise ship which was quarantined due to the measles. It was actually the flagship cruise ship for the Church of Scientology. A female patient was reported to have the measles, so all 300 passengers and crew members were quarantined. It is reported that many members of the Church of Scientology are anti-vaccination.


What Are The Signs and Symptoms Of The Measles?

Well, really it's like a cold, a very severe cold, initially. You get a very high fever of up to 104 degrees Fahrenheit or higher. You can also have a cough and runny nose. Another symptom is tiny white dots in your mouth that look kind of like little dots of salt or grains of salt. Red eyes, or eyes that are very sensitive to light is another sign of the measles.


measles outbreak in 2019


Approximately four days after this cold-like series of symptoms, you then develop that classic measles rash, which typically starts on the face, and it's a red, lacy rash, and then it moves to the rest of the body. Before that rash even develops, you are already highly contagious. Four days before the rash, and even four days after the rash, with measles, you can be spreading measles to other people if you have it.


How Are Measles Spread?

How can you catch the measles? Well, it is an airborne infection, a respiratory infection. If you come in close contact with someone who has the measles, even if they don't have the rash yet, you can get it. You have a 90% chance of getting it if you're exposed to it and you have not received the measles vaccine.


The measles virus can live for up to two hours even once the person who has measles has left the room.


But even if you are not face-to-face with someone who has the measles, you can still get it, because this contagious virus can live for up to two hours even once the person who has measles has left the room. In other words, the virus can just linger and live in the air and on other surfaces that you may come in contact with, even two hours after the infected person is gone. So indeed, measles is very, very contagious.


measles vaccine


The Measles Vaccine

What is it? Does it work? Should you get it? Well, the measles vaccine is actually a live vaccine or an attenuated virus. People who get the measles vaccine typically, for that first time, have a 93% chance of becoming immune to the measles, where they won't get it. With the booster, you get a 97% chance of being immune to the virus.


The vaccine is recommended to be given at the age of 12 months, one year of age, with the booster at four years of age. Now, ever since this outbreak, people have been asking if they can get their babies immunized even earlier than one year. The answer is yes. It is safe to get the measles vaccine even if you are six months of age, but you would still need to get a repeat at the age of one year, and again, the booster at four years of age.


People who are at risk for the measles are the very young, those people who are less than six months and who are not able to get the vaccine.  Also the very elderly are at most risk, and people who are immunocompromised, such as people who have HIV/AIDS, or people who have undergone chemotherapy.


How Do You Treat the Measles, or Is There a Treatment For Measles?

The best treatment for measles is prevention, which is by getting the vaccination, because the treatment really just consists of supportive care, meaning, keeping the patient hydrated, and keeping the fever down with acetaminophen. Patients who are malnourished or have vitamin A deficiency can receive vitamin A to help, but there's no definitive medicine that actually treats the measles.


Now, if you're a person who gets the measles and you're not able to have the vaccination, there is something called an immunoglobulin, which is where antibodies from people who have been exposed, or who have had the actual measles virus, you can actually be injected with their antibodies to give you some protection if you receive this immunoglobulin within a couple of days of being infected with the measles. But again, that's tricky, because you have the infection four days before you ever have the rash, so it's hard to stay within that tight timeframe. So again, the best treatment for measles is prevention.


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How Do You Prevent Measles?

Vaccination, vaccination, vaccination. The measles vaccination has been shown by science to be safe. Now there is definitive evidence. There have been scientific trials done that reveal that the measles vaccine does not cause autism. This has been a fear for many years, and it is the leading argument of a lot of anti-vaccination families and people. But the measles vaccine is safe and effective. That is our best way to prevent measles.


It's something. A lot of the doctors, a lot of new doctors, even me, have not even seen the measles, because ever since the vaccine had become available back in 1963, there was a great decline in the measles. Again, by the year 2000, it was totally eliminated. So back when I was training for medicine, I never saw the measles. People forget, now that we have these vaccinations, why we have the vaccinations. 500 years ago, one in three children died before the age of five from infections that are now preventable. People used to die from the measles, go blind from the measles, get encephalitis with the measles, and have pneumonia with the measles.


Other ways to try to prevent the measles is good hand-washing, covering your mouth when you sneeze, using your elbow, not your hand. Also, trying to avoid exposure, trying to avoid going to countries where you know there are measles outbreaks, and avoiding communities here within the US now where you know there are measles outbreaks. But again, the best prevention is vaccination.


How Do You Know If You've Been Vaccinated For Measles


How Do You Know If You've Been Vaccinated For Measles?

What if your mother has forgotten whether or not she got you the MMR? Well, just visit your physician. When you go see your doctor, they can actually do blood tests to check if you have a high enough titer, or protection in your blood, against the measles. If not, you can certainly, even as an adult, receive the measles vaccine.


Also, if you know you're going to be traveling to a place that has had episodes of the measles virus, you can get yourself a vaccination, preferably four weeks before you travel. Anywhere from two to four weeks, but preferably four weeks, to make sure you have that immunity. Even if you have been exposed to the measles virus, if you are able to figure that out within 48 hours, it's still worth going and getting the measles vaccine, which can provide you, potentially, with some protection.


What Is the Brady Bunch Controversy With The Measles?

Well, there was a Brady Bunch episode that aired back in 1969, I believe, where essentially they were making light of the measles and saying that there was no need for the measles vaccine. The kids got the measles, they had a little fever, a little rash, and a smile, they said because they got to miss school for a few days.


Well, even some people who were actors on the Brady Bunch during that episode have come out and spoken against people using that episode as proof that the measles vaccine is not necessary. The measles vaccine is actually an excellent tool to prevent very serious illness.


Because of all the vaccinations, a lot of times we forget how serious and how potentially fatal infectious diseases are. There was a time when people were dying from the measles. With the measles, you can have complications like ear infections. Okay. One in 20 people who get the measles will get pneumonia. But a very serious complication is encephalitis, or swelling and inflammation of the brain, and even death. These things used to occur. But with the vaccination, we've been able to eliminate it before, and hopefully we can eliminate it again.


Some people are not able to get the measles vaccination, either because they're too young or they're very immunocompromised, or they could be malnourished and their system may just not build up immunity to the measles even when they have the measles vaccination. Well, when the majority of the society is vaccinated against the measles, those people who can't get the vaccine are still protected by something called herd immunity. Even if you don't have the vaccination, you're protected because everyone around you, just about, has it, and the measles is not there.


When we're in a situation when people choose not to get the measles vaccination just because they think the measles are no big deal, or perhaps they have some misinformation about what the measles vaccination will do, now you're putting those people who can't get the vaccination at risk. You're putting chemo patients at risk, immunocompromised patients at risk, the very elderly and the very young as well. The measles vaccination actually does work to prevent very serious illness.



This ends my overview of the measles, the measles outbreak in 2019, and the dangerous signs and symptoms of the measles. Again, if you have not been vaccinated against the measles and you have been exposed during this measles outbreak, you do have a 90% chance of getting the measles. Complications including pneumonia, encephalitis, and even death.


Please comment down below. Tell me what you think about the measles vaccination. Have you been vaccinated against the measles? Do you believe that children should be vaccinated? Should the state step in and make people get vaccinations? Comment and tell me if you are anti-vaccination. Do you know of children who you believe have an illness or some type of developmental delay and you attribute it to the measles vaccine? Tell me why you think this. I want to know.


Dr. Frita - Frita McRae Fisher, M.D.
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