Measles Outbreak – What You and Your Family Should Know

With the recent news on the measles outbreaks around the country and cases now confirmed in Allegheny County, many parents are deeply concerned. Measles is a highly contagious virus that is vaccine preventable.

We can’t stress enough to make sure your children are vaccinated.

What should you and your family know about measles?

Measles is a respiratory disease that can easily spread when it reaches areas where groups of people are unvaccinated. It can spread even if you do not have direct, close contact with the person who has measles. For example, you can possibly get it by being in the same room as someone who is infected with measles.

Measles starts with a high fever, runny nose, cough, red, watery eyes, spots in the mouth, and sore throat, followed by a rash that starts at the head and face and then spreads over the body.  The rash usually appears approximately 14 days after exposure and several days after other symptoms.

About three out of 10 people who get measles will develop one or more complications including pneumonia, ear infections or diarrhea. Even in developed countries like the United States, as many as one in 1,000 affected children may die as a complication of measles usually from pneumonia or encephalitis, which is an irritation or swelling of the brain.

Measles is preventable. 

Measles can be prevented by the combination MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella) vaccine. The CDC recommends that children get two doses: the first dose when they are 12 to 15 months old and a second dose at 4 to 6 years old. Older children, teenagers and adults also should be up-to-date on their vaccinations. The MMR vaccine is highly effective and safe.

What if your child is less than 12 months old? 

Babies are generally protected by passive immunity they receive from their mother during pregnancy. This protection starts to lessen after the baby is 6 months old. However, the presence of the passive immunity may weaken the baby’s own immune response to the MMR vaccine until the baby is a little older.

Pediatricians often recommend giving babies 6 months or older the MMR vaccine when traveling to other countries where they may be exposed to measles. Unless you are planning to travel internationally, hold off on the vaccine until your baby is 12 months old.

Even though there are cases in our area now, UPMC Children’s Hospital and the Allegheny County Health Department still do not recommend giving the MMR vaccine to a baby 6 to 12 months old unless there is a known direct exposure within 72 hours to a known measles case. If this does change, the community will be informed.

And remember, vaccinate, vaccinate, vaccinate.

Wondering whether you or your loved ones need the MMR vaccine? Ask your health care provider. Need to check your child’s vaccination status, remember to use myCHP – Children’s online health portal.