What You Should Know About Measles
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What You Should Know About Measles

Measles is back. After years of relatively few reported cases in the US – thanks mainly to widespread vaccinations -- the disease has been spreading in children and adults at an alarming rate, with 644 cases reported in 2014 and dozens more occurring in multiple states in early 2015. “The problem with measles is that it’s so contagious,” Darria Long Gillespie, MD, an ER doctor at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta and executive vice president at Sharecare, explained in a recent interview. “If you have not been vaccinated fully and you’re exposed to someone with measles, you have a 75 to 90% chance of getting measles yourself.” The good news: You can protect yourself and your family. Here's what you need to know.
 
What is Measles?
Measles (rubeola) is a serious and sometimes fatal respiratory disease that’s caused by a virus. Worldwide, it is still one of the leading causes of death in children.
 
How it spreads
An infected person can pass the virus, usually by coughing or sneezing, up to four days before and after the trademark red rash appears. “Measles droplets can remain in the air for hours after a person has coughed and left the room,” Dr. Gillespie says. By breathing that air or touching an infected surface and then touching your own nose or mouth, you can become infected.
 
Who’s at risk
Any child or adult who is not vaccinated is at risk, especially if they travel internationally in countries where measles is still common, or if they visit areas in the US where outbreaks have been reported. “If your child is not fully vaccinated … you have to keep her away from someone who has it, and that’s almost impossible to do if someone with measles is in your neighborhood or community,” notes Dr. Gillespie.
 
Signs and symptoms
Measles symptoms occur in stages, beginning with a high fever accompanied by a runny nose, cough and watery eyes. Tiny white spots may appear in the mouth a couple of days later. An itchy red rash follows in three to five days, starting at the hairline and spreading down toward the feet. Find out what measles look like. 
 
Treatment and complications
No treatment can cure the virus or shorten the length of the infection.  Once a person becomes infected, complications may include pneumonia, severe diarrhea and even swelling of the brain. A doctor may order fluids for dehydration or, if needed, prescribe antibiotics.
 
Prevention
Early vaccination is key. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends all children get two doses of MMR vaccine by age 6; adults who aren’t immune should get at least one dose. The risks of not doing so are high. “As an ER doctor I see children come in with many illnesses, many of which can be prevented,” Gillespie says. “This goes from being a personal decision to a public hazard if you’re not vaccinating your child.” Watch as pediatrician Lisa Thornton, MD, explains the importance of getting both rounds of the MMR vaccine.

Measles (Rubeola)

Measles (Rubeola)

Measles is a contagious viral respiratory infection mainly affecting children. It causes an itchy rash, but other symptoms of the measles include fever, sore throat, cough, runny nose and red eyes. While there is no medication ava...

ilable to treat measles, the common MMR vaccine is effective at preventing it.
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