The measles virus is a highly contagious disease that can cause serious health issues. It is essential to be aware of the risks associated with measles and to take steps to protect yourself and your community. That’s why it’s important to get tested for measles if you think you may have been exposed. Here’s what you need to know about this infectious disease.
What is measles?
Measles, also called rubeola, is an airborne virus that is highly contagious and can cause serious and severe complications such as pneumonia, brain inflammation, and even death. It is transmitted through contact with infected droplets in the air that are produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. The virus can remain active in the environment for up to two hours after an infected person has left the room.
Signs and symptoms
Measles signs and symptoms typically appear around 10 to 14 days after exposure, which include:
- Dry cough
- Runny nose
- Sore throat
- Inflamed eyes
- Koplik’s spots (tiny white spots inside the mouth)
- Skin rash (large, flat blotches)
Complications of measles
Measles can cause serious health complications including:
- Diarrhea and vomiting
- Ear infection (otitis media)
- Bronchitis, laryngitis or croup
- Lung infection (pneumonia, bronchitis)
- Pregnancy problems (premature birth, low birth weight and fetal death)
Measles by the numbers
Measles can be serious and contagious. It spreads through the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes. It is so contagious that if one person has it, 9 out of 10 people around him or her will also get it if they are not protected. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:
- About 1 in 5 people in the U.S. who get measles will be hospitalized
- 1 out of every 1,000 people with measles will develop brain swelling, which could lead to brain damage
- 1 to 3 out of 1,000 people with measles will die, even with the best care
People at high risk of complications
- Infants and children < 5 years of age
- Adults aged > 20 years of age
- Pregnant women
- People with weak immune systems like leukemia, HIV
Vaccinations and testing
Rubeola was gone from the U.S. in 2000 thanks to a highly effective vaccination program. Consequently, it is no longer constantly present in this country. However, this disease is still common in many parts of the world. Even if your family does not travel internationally, you could come into contact with measles anywhere in the community.
The best way to protect yourself from measles is by getting vaccinated. The CDC recommends that all children receive two doses of the MMR vaccine (measles, mumps, and rubella) at ages 12 months and 4 years old.
MMR vaccine provides long-lasting protection against all strains of measles. Doctors recommend two doses of the vaccine for the best protection. Therefore, when in doubt, ask your healthcare provider to check your MMR titers to make sure you have protection against measles, mumps and rubella. MMR titers for antibody levels are really important particularly in pregnant women and healthcare workers.
Adults who have not been vaccinated should also consider receiving two doses of the MMR vaccine. If you are unsure about your vaccination status or if you need another dose of the vaccine, it is important to speak with your healthcare provider about getting tested for immunity against measles.
Testing for immunity against measles involves a simple blood test to measure your body’s antibodies against the virus. If you do not have enough antibodies present in your blood sample, then you may need another dose of the MMR vaccine. Your healthcare provider may also recommend additional testing or treatments if necessary based on your individual results.
Make sure you’re protected against measles
Keeping yourself safe from diseases like measles starts with knowledge and prevention—namely getting vaccinated if you haven’t already done so or getting tested if necessary so that you can protect yourself and others around you from infection.
Walk-in to any Nao Medical urgent care clinics to check your immunity to rubeola (blood-work). Getting tested and a dose of MMR vaccine for protection against measles is a simple process that could potentially save lives in our communities.