Vaccine best preventive measure for highly contagious measles
Despite the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention declaring measles eliminated in the U.S. in 2000, 2014 had the highest number of measles cases in 20 years, affecting 644 people in 27 states. With recent media attention focusing on an outbreak associated with the Disneyland Theme Park, it's important to understand the disease.
Measles is a highly contagious virus characterized by a rash, fever and, in some cases, cough or runny nose. It is spread when an infected person breathes, coughs or sneezes; people become infected when they breathe contaminated air or touch infected surfaces before touching their own eyes, noses or mouths.
Measles is so contagious if one person has it, 90 percent of the people close to the person who aren't immune will be infected.
Measles remains a common disease throughout many parts of the world; an estimated 20 million cases occur each year worldwide. Additionally, measles is very serious and can even be deadly; about 145,700 people died of measles worldwide in 2013.
Thankfully, the measles vaccine is one of the best vaccines we have. It is more than 99 percent effective in preventing measles with the recommended two doses. The first dose is give at 12 months old, and a second dose is give between the ages of 4 and 6.
Currently, the measles vaccine is administered in combination with the mumps and rubella vaccine and often is referred to as the MMR. Minnesota overall has relatively high immunization rates for MMR and sees approximately two cases of measles annually.
This recent California outbreak reminds us that disease exposures can and do happen in this country and in many different settings. Ensuring age-appropriate vaccinations are given is very important. Maintaining high vaccination coverage is crucial, and it's the best protection we have against disease outbreaks.
Our community understands this, and vaccine preventable diseases recently were identified as one of the top five community health priorities. The community is working together to reach the ultimate goal of reducing the number of preventable diseases in our community by increasing overall immunization rates and expanding health education around diseases and the vaccines available.
We want to take this opportunity to remind the community of the benefits and importance of vaccines and the role they play in our individual and collective health.
If you or your loved ones have not been immunized, or you are unsure of your vaccination status, for measles or any of the other several diseases for which vaccines are available, check with your doctor.
Health-care professionals will be able to check your immunization history. If your history is not available, individuals can have a test to check for immunity or even receive the needed vaccination.
Vaccination is our best preventive measure.
Pete Giesen is the director of Olmsted County Public Health Services, Dr. Robert Jacobson is Mayo Clinic physician, and Shelli DeGeus is an infection prevention nurse at Olmsted Medical Center.