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Measles: What you should know

vaccination

Given the current outbreak of measles in Ohio, parents should be familiar with their children’s immune status, the symptoms of the disease, and what to expect if you suspect your child may have the measles.

The Ohio Department of Health has received 50 confirmed reports of the measles since March 22 in Ashland, Coshocton, Holmes, Knox and Richland, and Wayne counties. The cases are of people ranging from 1 to 52 years of age. The Ohio outbreak began when several unvaccinated travelers returned from the Philippines, which has had nearly 4,000 confirmed and thousands more suspected cases since January.

Measles is an acute viral respiratory illness characterized by a fever (as high as 105), cough, rash, runny nose and conjunctivitis (pink eye).

measles

Skin of a patient after 3 days of measles infection.

The illness can also cause severe illness and complications, including seizures, encephalitis (brain infection) and death. These complications are more common among children under age 5 and adults over 20 years of age.

The rash usually appears about 14 days after a person is exposed. However the incubation period ranges from 7 to 21 days. It spreads from the head to the trunk to the lower extremities. Patients are considered contagious from 4 days before to 4 days after the rash appears.

Measles is diagnosed by a combination of symptoms and laboratory tests.

Vaccines are the first line of defense

The best protection against measles for individuals and the community is through routine immunization with the combined measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine.

The MMR vaccine can be used for children ages 12 months through 12 years. One dose of the MMR vaccine is approximately 93 percent effective at preventing measles; 2 doses are approximately 97 percent effective.

Almost everyone who doesn’t respond to the measles component of the first dose of the MMR at 12 months will respond to the second dose. The second dose is administered to address primary vaccine failure. It’s usually given between ages 4 and 6, but can be given sooner as long as the doses are at least 28 days apart.

measles

In the beginning stages, one of the signs of the onset of measles is the eruption of “Koplik spots” on the mucosa of the cheeks and tongue, which appear as irregularly-shaped, bright red spots often with a bluish-white central dot.

Could this be measles?

If you suspect your child has the measles based on one or more of the following, call your child’s pediatrician or seek immediate evaluation:

  • You see the symptoms described above, including rash and fever
  • You know that your child has not been vaccinated
  • You know your child has been exposed to someone with measles
  • You have recently traveled overseas to areas with known measles outbreaks

Prevention measures taken at pediatrician offices, ERs

Since the measles is highly contagious, Akron Children’s Hospital Pediatrics (ACHP) offices, and the hospital’s ERs are taking extra precautions to prevent the spread of the disease and keep all of its patient families safe.

If you suspect your child has measles, please let your ACHP office know this when making the appointment. Please plan to come to the office with 2 parents/adults. Leave your child in the car with one adult while the other comes into the office to get a face mask. Place the face mask on your child in the car, bring him into the office and you will be directed to an exam room.

Should your child need to be admitted, extra steps will also be taken to prevent exposure to the measles within the hospital. These are procedures required of all hospitals.

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