As Measles Continues, State Health Officials Prepareby Indiana State Department of Health on February 11, 2015
INDIANAPOLIS—As the national measles outbreak that began in a California amusement park in December 2014 continues to spread, State health officials have been taking steps to prepare for a case here in Indiana. Investigating and containing measles is nothing new for health officials in the Hoosier state. Since 2005, Indiana has experienced 67 cases of measles, including an outbreak in 2012 that made national headlines when two individuals with measles visited Super Bowl Village in downtown Indianapolis while infectious.
“We’ve been lucky that in recent years we haven’t lost any lives due to measles, but I’m afraid that might not always be the case,” said State Health Commissioner Jerome Adams, M.D., M.P.H. “With measles once again posing a serious threat, we are working to inform health care providers about signs and symptoms and continue to encourage all Hoosiers to check your vaccination status and get the appropriate doses of the Measles, Mumps and Rubella vaccine if you haven’t already done so.”
Measles was declared eliminated (absence of continuous disease transmission for greater than 12 months) from the U.S. in 2000 thanks to a highly effective vaccination program. Measles is still commonly transmitted (endemic or large outbreaks) in many parts of the world. This includes Europe, Asia, the Pacific, and Africa. Worldwide, an estimated 20 million people get measles and 122,000 die from the disease each year.
Before the United States measles vaccination program started in 1963, about 3 to 4 million people in the U.S. got measles each year; 400 to 500 of them died, 48,000 were hospitalized, and 4,000 developed encephalitis because of measles.
“The cases of measles in the infants in Illinois clearly demonstrate just how important it is that every one of us gets vaccinated,” said Dr. Adams. “Vaccinations not only protect us and our loved ones, but they also protect vulnerable members of society who may not be able to get vaccinated, such as babies and individuals whose immune systems are suppressed due to chronic disease.”
Measles is a highly contagious respiratory disease caused by a virus. It is rare in the United States due to high vaccination rates with the Measles, Mumps, Rubella (MMR) vaccine; however, visitors from other countries or unvaccinated U.S. citizens traveling abroad can become infected outside the United States and bring measles back with them.
More than 95 percent of people who receive a single dose of MMR will develop immunity to measles, and more than 99 percent will be protected after receiving a second dose. Two doses of the vaccine are needed to be fully protected. Individuals are encouraged to check with their health care providers to ensure vaccinations are up-to-date.
Children are routinely vaccinated for measles at 1 year of age, and again between the ages of 4-6 before going to kindergarten, but children as young as 6 months old can receive the measles vaccine if they will be traveling to a country where measles is endemic, or are otherwise at risk. Individuals born before 1957 are presumed to be immune to measles, unless they are health care providers. Individuals who are unsure about vaccination history should contact their health care providers. Hoosiers can also access immunization records directly through the secure online tool, called MyVaxIndiana, by requesting a PIN from their health care provider. Visit www.MyVaxIndiana.in.gov to learn more.
Measles begins with a fever, cough, runny nose, and red eyes about 7-10 days after exposure. The fever increases and can get as high as 105 degrees. Two to four days later, a rash starts on the face and upper neck. It spreads down the back and trunk, and then extends to the arms and hands, as well as the legs and feet. After about five days, the rash fades the same order in which it appeared.
Measles is highly contagious. When infected persons sneeze or cough, droplets spray into the air. Those droplets remain active and contagious in the air for up to two hours.
“Hands down, the best way to prevent measles is to get two doses of the MMR vaccine for people born after 1957,” said Dr. Adams. “With flu and other contagious illnesses also going around, it’s always a good idea to also wash your hands frequently, cover your cough and stay home if you become sick.”