From the Harford County Health Department:
In January, 2015, 102 people from 14 states were reported to have measles. Most cases were linked back to an amusement park in California.
In 2008, 2011, and 2013, measles cases increased over previous years. Then, in 2014, 644 confirmed cases of measles were reported. This was the greatest number of cases since 2000 when the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention declared measles had been eliminated in this country, resulting from a highly effective national vaccination program. Public Health experts say there are U.S. communities with pockets of unvaccinated people, adding that the measles disease can come into this country when unvaccinated U.S. residents travel internationally or when foreign visitors to the United States who have been exposed to the measles virus travel here.
Currently, no Maryland cases are associated with the multi-state outbreak. However, Harford County Health Department Health Officer, Susan Kelly urges everyone who has not had measles, and who was born between 1957 and 1990, to have his or her blood tested for immunity to measles and/or receive a second dose of the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine.
Persons who are unsure whether they are immune to measles should first try to find their vaccination records or documentation of measles immunity. For those without written documentation of measles immunity, vaccination with the MMR vaccine is recommended. There is no harm in getting another dose of MMR vaccine if you may already be immune to measles (or mumps or rubella).
Measles is a serious viral respiratory disease that lives in the nose and throat mucus of an infected person that spreads to others through coughing and sneezing. The measles virus also can live for hours in the air or on a surface making it extremely contagious. Symptoms of measles begin with a high fever. Other symptoms include:
– Cough, runny nose and red eyes
– Rash of tiny, red spots that start at the head and spread to the rest of the body
– Ear infection
Call your health care provider immediately if you experience these symptoms.
Ms. Kelly comments, “In the years before 1963 when a measles vaccine became available, nearly all children got measles by the time they were 15 years of age. Three to four million Americans were infected each year. Of that number, an estimated 400 to 500 people died and another 48,000 more were hospitalized.
More life threatening than the severe rash are the other potential complications from this disease, which can lead to pneumonia, encephalitis (swelling of the brain), or even death. These are more common in adults and young children, especially those younger than 5 years of age.”
The MMR vaccine is a live vaccine; therefore, children who have a weakened immune system due to cancer and other diseases may not be able to receive it. This makes getting vaccinated even more important for anyone who may be around a child with cancer or other diseases that could weaken the child’s immune system. Ms. Kelly also reminds the public that although no vaccine protects against all cases, measles vaccines are safe and effective and there is no evidence that vaccines cause autism.
For more information, call 410-612-1774 or visit the health department website at www.harfordcountyhealth.com.