GREENFIELD – Measles outbreaks, defined as three or more cases, have been reported in five states so far in 2019. These outbreaks are linked to travelers who brought measles back from other countries where large measles outbreaks are occurring. Washington State has declared a “state of emergency” due to an outbreak of measles that has now reached 71 confirmed cases across two counties. The majority of cases in these outbreaks have been among unvaccinated persons. Measles is extremely contagious, and can be serious, especially for young children.
There currently are no confirmed measles cases in Iowa. However, these outbreaks have brought the protection provided by vaccinations back into the spotlight.
“It’s always important to keep your vaccinations up-to-date, but during times like this, when we know a virus is circulating, it’s especially critical to check with your health care provider to be sure you and your family’s vaccinations are current.” said Adair County Public Health Community Coordinator Stephanie Claussen.
The best way to prevent measles is to get the measles-mumps-rubella shot, called MMR. Two doses of MMR will provide more than 99 percent of people lifelong protection against measles. Two doses of MMR are required for elementary and secondary school entry in Iowa. The first dose should be given at 12 months of age and the second dose can be administered as soon as 28 days later – however the second dose is usually administered as part of the kindergarten shots given between 4-6 years of age. Generally, persons who started elementary school in Iowa after 1991 and were up-to-date on all school entry vaccine requirements have received two doses of MMR vaccine.
It is recommended that adults born in 1957 or later receive at least one dose of MMR vaccine, or have a laboratory test proving that they are immune and are protected. It is assumed that persons born in the U.S. prior to 1957 were likely infected with the measles virus and therefore have presumptive immunity. In addition, two doses of MMR is recommended for adults of all ages who work or volunteer in health care facilities, travel internationally or are students in a post-secondary institution, if they do not have laboratory proof of immunity.
Giving vaccines to those who may have already had measles or may have already received the recommended vaccination is not harmful – it only boosts immunity. Therefore, if someone is unable to verify prior vaccination or history of illness, the easiest, quickest and most appropriate thing to do is to vaccinate the individual.
• Measles starts with a high fever. Soon after, it causes a cough, runny nose and red eyes. Three to seven days after the fever, a rash of tiny, red spots breaks out. It usually starts at the head and spreads to the rest of the body. The rash can last for a week, and coughing can last for 10 days.
• Measles virus travels through the air. You can get measles if you go near someone who has the virus because the virus stays for up to two hours in the air of a room where a person with measles has been.
• You can catch measles from an infected person as early as four days before they have a rash and for up to four days after the rash appears.
• Almost everyone who is not immune will get measles if they are exposed to the measles virus.
• Foreign travel or exposure to foreign travelers increases the risk for measles.
• If you feel you have symptoms of measles or have been exposed to the measles, call ahead and talk to your healthcare provider or local health department to talk about testing and advice, so they can take proper precautions and avoid exposure to other patients and staff.
Measles is one of the most infectious diseases on earth; this is why Adair County Public Health and local public health agencies statewide work with the Iowa Department of Public Health to immediately alert the public about possible exposure to measles if a person is confirmed to have this disease. If a resident of Adair County would have measles, all residents would be notified of places, times and locations where they could have been exposed, as well as locations of emergency vaccination clinics.
For more information or to check your immunization status, contact your provider or Claussen at Adair County Public Health by calling 641-743-7205 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.