Vaccination is the key to measles protection
Measles, a highly contagious respiratory virus that causes a distinctive rash, has been in the news again lately. Several measles outbreaks have been reported in New York, California and British Columbia, and there have been a handful of measles exposures here in the Seattle-Tacoma area.
While these recent outbreaks are concerning, measles is still rare in the United States, thanks to the large number of people who have been vaccinated against the virus and are protected.
Measles is spread through the air and causes fever, a runny nose, cough and a rash all over the body. The virus can remain in the air for several hours, and is so contagious, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), that anyone exposed will likely get sick, unless they are immune.
Although often described as a “childhood” disease, anyone can get sick from measles.
“Measles is a significant illness in people of any age,” says Sue Gustafson, Program Director of Infection Prevention at MultiCare.
In severe cases, measles can result in pneumonia, or cause other complications requiring hospitalization. Pregnant women who get measles are at a higher risk for premature labor, miscarriage and low birth weight babies.
Vaccination is the only way to protect yourself from measles.
Need a measles shot? MultiCare Express Clinic, located in Lakewood, offers adult immunizations as one of their many services.
“The measles vaccine is very effective and provides permanent protection in individuals who are fully vaccinated,” says Gustafson, “There is no recommendation for booster shots in individuals who have been fully vaccinated, according to the most recent recommendations from the CDC.”
To be fully protected, you must get two doses of the measles vaccine. The first vaccine is usually given to babies between 12 and 15 months, and the second dose is given when children are between 4 and 6 years old. Babies under a year old can’t get the vaccine, so they are especially vulnerable to infection if exposed.
Getting the measles vaccine within 72 hours after exposure may stop a person who was not fully vaccinated from getting sick. Unvaccinated, high-risk individuals, such as infants who are too young to get the vaccine, may be given another type of medication called Immune Globulin may be recommended to help protect them from infection if exposed.
“The bottom line is that measles is a serious and highly contagious infection,” says Gustafson. “Individuals who have not been fully vaccinated should arrange for vaccine as soon as possible.”
If you're not sure whether you're protected from measles, talk to your provider. He or she will tell you if you should get the vaccine.
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