This highly contagious disease has increased in the United States recently due to a growing number of unvaccinated individuals who travel to countries where measles is prevalent. Those who were born before Jan. 1, 1957 or who have documentation they have received two MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccinations are believed to be immune. All others should consider vaccination, especially if they have contact with anyone who has measles.
“While most of the population is immune, about 97 percent of Dutchess County residents,” said Caldwell in his release, “these exposures place non-immune individuals at risk for becoming infected. Of greatest concern are infants less than twelve months of age, pregnant women, and persons who have immuno-compromising conditions as they have the highest risk for severe complications.”
Measles symptoms include fever, red watery eyes, runny nose, cough and a rash all over the body. About one out of 10 children with measles also gets an ear infection, and up to one out of 20 gets pneumonia. Pregnant women who are exposed may put their baby at risk for birth defects. Individuals who are experiencing these symptoms should call their provider prior to going to the healthcare office so precautionary methods can be taken in order to reduce the potential spread of measles.
Before the measles vaccine, nearly all children got measles by the time they were 15 years of age. Historically, 48,000 people were hospitalized each year in the United States because of measles, and 450 to 500 died. Most of the diminished number of cases reported in the United States today originate outside the country. Of the 50 cases reported nationally to date this year (of which seven have been in New York State, Smith said) 46 have been import-associated. Eighty-six percent were unvaccinated or had unknown vaccination status.
“The increased numbers of outbreaks and measles importations into the United States underscore the ongoing risk for measles among unvaccinated persons and the importance of vaccination against measles,” said Caldwell.
Under the federal Affordable Care Act, children up to age 17 now have expanded coverage for important preventive services, including vaccination. Two measles, mumps and rubella shots are recommended for children, one at 12 to 15 months and the other at 4 to 6 years old.