Measles is one of the most highly contagious diseases in the world, and it is literally just a state away. Washington is reporting an outbreak, and cases of the dangerous disease have been reported in Oregon. Knowing this, it’s very important to make sure your measles vaccination is up to date.
What is the best way to protect yourself and your loved ones?
Measles is a vaccine-preventable disease. Getting an MMR immunization, which protects you against measles, mumps, and rubella, is the best way to protect yourself and your family, as well as your friends and community.
Who should get the vaccine?
You should talk to your medical provider about whether your family members already are immune or need to be vaccinated. Otherwise, all children should get one dose of vaccine when they are 12-15 months old and a second dose when they are 4 to 6 years old before they begin school. All school-aged children and students entering college should have received two doses of the MMR vaccine. And adults born after 1956 who are not sure they had measles or if they were vaccinated should receive at least one dose of the vaccine.
Adult healthcare workers and international travelers should receive two doses. Babies may receive the vaccine as early as 6 months if they are traveling internationally.
Who should not get it?
As always, we recommend you talk to your doctor. But generally, pregnant women shouldn’t receive it because it is a live, attenuated vaccine. Also, people with health conditions that severely suppress their immune symptoms can’t get the vaccine. This would include people with diseases like HIV or those with conditions that require medical treatments such as chemotherapy, immunotherapy, or steroids.
But people who get the vaccine can protect people who can’t get the vaccine. Can you explain how that works?
Very simply, if a person is exposed to the measles virus and becomes infected, but everyone that person comes into contact with is immune, there is no transmission of the virus. There is no outbreak because it can’t spread. This is called herd immunity.
However, if one or two people are not immune or haven’t been vaccinated, then the virus gets a foothold and spreads. Measles travels through the air after an infected person coughs or sneezes, and 90 percent of people who are not immune will become infected if they come into contact with the virus. This could be from being around someone who has the disease or entering a room where an infected person recently coughed or sneezed. Since the virus can remain in the air for up to 2 hours, people can be exposed without even knowing it.
What happens if or when we do get a case in the state?
Local public health teams will spring into action and do what they do for all communicable diseases. They will investigate immediately to find out where the person was infected, where they went during the infectious period, who they might have been in direct contact with, and who needs to be protected. They also monitor symptoms and offer medications, vaccination, and/or treatment.
What else can people do to protect themselves?
To avoid infecting others, you should stay home when you feel sick. You should keep your kids home when they are sick. Whether it’s the flu, measles or just a cold, you reduce the number of people you infect by limiting your contact with others.
(Note: A Closer Look At Your Health airs at 6:50 a.m. most Tuesdays on KBOI News Radio 670. This is an edited transcript of the segment from Feb. 5.)