Measles Outbreak 2014 – A Matter of Facts

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The resurgence of measles in the United States is a triumph of half-truths, the internet and emotion over rational science and documented results.  The childhood immunization MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) was responsible for the elimination of measles from the Americas, the last endemic case occurring in 2002.  In 1998, MMR was cited in a since disproven medical journal article as a cause of autism.  That false report resulted in a precipitous drop in childhood and travel vaccinations.  As a result, people who have no immunity – either from immunization or as a result of having the disease – are becoming infected while visiting a region where measles still exists and bringing the virus back to the U.S. Upon return to the States, an exposed individual can in turn infect others with no or limited immunity.  Measles-Cases-300px

Because measles is highly contagious – 90 percent of those in close proximity to an infected individual will contract the disease – it poses a particular danger for schools, workplaces and public gathering venues.  Measles can take several days to become symptomatic.  Symptoms include high fever (exceeding 104˚F), malaise, loss of appetite, hacking cough, runny nose, red eyes and a rash that can cover much of the body. 

Complications of measles are common, and can include diarrhea, pneumonia, otitis media (ear infections), encephalitis and corneal ulceration.  Complications are usually more severe in adults than in children.  Three in 1000 cases are fatal.

Measles is spread through respiration; from either direct contact with fluids from the nose and mouth or through aerosol transmission.  The presence of an infected individual could have significant impact on a school or place of business.  Those who have travelled to an area where measles is known to exist, or those who live or work with someone who has, should watch for the emergence of symptoms within two weeks of returning.  A high fever and the emergence of Koplik’s spots (spots in the mouth) may indicate infection with measles.  Because of extreme communicability, anyone with measles should be encouraged to stay home.  This may require changes in policy, but will prevent mass infections that can cripple a classroom or business.

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