Before the measles vaccine was first introduced in the United States in 1963, nearly all children contracted the disease by the time they reached 15, which led to 400-500 deaths annually.
Fast forward to 2000, and measles was eliminated from our country, prompting health officials to declare victory. Unfortunately, the same victory wasn’t had in other countries and measles has crept back into our population, with 1,249 cases this year alone, which is the largest number since 1992.
At Forest Urgent Care, our expert team of health care providers prides itself on offering the services our patients need to safeguard their health, including vaccinations against highly contagious and potentially dangerous diseases like measles.
If you want to ensure that your family is protected against measles, here’s what you need to know.
Thanks to vaccination efforts, most of our population is unfamiliar with measles, so it’s helpful to quickly review what the disease is and how it spreads. Measles is caused by a virus and mostly affects children. The primary symptom of measles is a rash that appears on a child’s skin, but it’s also accompanied by flu-like symptoms that include:
- Runny nose
- Sore throat
- Inflammation in the eyes, which is called conjunctivitis
The rash typically starts in the face and then spreads rapidly down the body. After the disease has run its course, the rash fades.
While most children weathered the disease without incident, some experienced complications, such as encephalitis, which is swelling in the brain. As well, pneumonia and ear infections were also common complications. As we mentioned above, between 400 and 500 people died in the US each year because of measles before the vaccine was introduced. Sadly, there are still 110,000 deaths due to measles annually around the rest of the world.
Aside from the potentially dangerous complications, one of the most insidious aspects of measles is how contagious the disease is. A person who is infected will pass the disease to 90% of those around them who aren’t immune.
To answer the question posed in the title of this blog post, the best way to protect you and your family from contracting measles is through vaccination. Most children in the US are vaccinated against measles at the age of 1 with the MMR vaccine, which protects against rubella and mumps as well. While this single dose is 93% effective, another vaccination at the age of 4 bumps the protection rate to more than 97%.
Protection against measles is extremely important if you’re traveling abroad. If you know your family has the necessary immunizations in place, you should be safe. But if you aren’t immune, we recommend being fully vaccinated at least two weeks prior to your travel. This means you should come to us at least six weeks in advance, as we administer the first dose immediately and the second after four weeks.
To learn more about protecting yourself against measles, please contact one of our two offices in Forest Hills or Hunters Point in Long Island City, New York.