The number of measles cases nationwide has risen to more than 100, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has announced. Local health authorities recently identified several cases of measles within the Greater Houston area. Although this highly contagious infectious disease is making a resurgence in the United States, measles can be prevented with a safe and effective vaccine. It is recommended that all children receive two (2) doses of the MMR (measles-mumps-rubella) vaccine, with the first dose given at 12 to 15 months, and the second dose given between the ages of 4 and 6.
How is measles transmitted?
Measles is a virus that lives in the nose and throat mucus of an infected person. It can spread to others through coughing and sneezing. The measles virus can live for up to two (2) hours in the air or on surfaces where the infected person coughed or sneezed. If other people breathe the contaminated air or touch the infected surface, then touch their eyes, noses, or mouths, they can become infected.
What are the signs and symptoms of measles?
Measles is characterized by a fever (as high as 105 degrees Fahrenheit), cough, runny nose, pink eyes and a rash that starts on the head and spreads all over the body. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that patients are considered contagious from four days before to four days after the rash appears. Pregnant women, children under the age of 1, and those with weakened immune systems are at higher risk of complications from measles.
How can I protect myself and my loved ones?
The MMR vaccine offers the best protection. Two doses of MMR vaccine are about 97 percent effective at preventing measles; one dose is about 93 percent effective.
What should I do if I’m concerned that I have been exposed to measles?
Call your doctor immediately. A medical provider can help determine if you are immune and make arrangements for evaluation and treatment. If you do not have a physician, and are unsure of where to go, call Memorial Hermann’s 24/7 Nurse Health Line at (713) 338-7979 or 1-855-577-7979. This free triage line is answered by specially trained registered nurses who can answer your health questions and direct you to area care facilities.