• According to the CDC, measles, also known as rubella, is a highly contagious and vaccine-preventable respiratory disease that can affect adults and children.
• Measles-mumps-rubella vaccine (MMR) is given to children in two doses for prevention: once at 1 year and again at 15 months to 6 years.
• This viral infection is transmitted mainly by respiratory droplets emitted by coughing and sneezing. These droplets may persist for more than two hours.
• The illness usually starts with a fever, a cough, a runny nose and red, watery eyes. Over the next few days, the infected person may notice tiny white spots inside the cheek before a rash.
• The rash, the most symptomatic symptom of measles, is in the form of small red and flat spots around the hairline on a person's face and extends down through the body . Small red bumps can also develop on flat areas.
• Measles can last for days or weeks. Infected people are contagious on average four days before and after the onset of rash.
As measles cases are on the rise in the United States, health officials recommend that everyone protect themselves whether or not their area is affected by an outbreak.
By April 4, the United States had registered 465 cases of measles – the second highest since measles was virtually eliminated in 2000, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The CDC considers a disease as eliminated when there is no continuous transmission of the disease in a specific area for at least 12 months.
So far, 19 states, including Florida and Georgia, have reported measles cases this year. On April 9, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio declared a public health emergency for measles in parts of the city. A state of emergency has also been declared in Rockland County, New York.
"Measles is really on the radar right now, especially with the situation in New York," said Dr. Karen Landers, doctor and district doctor, vaccines specialist for the US Department of Public Health. Alabama (ADPH). Landers, who lives in Florence, has been practicing pediatrics for 42 years.
In March, the Alabama Department of Public Health had no cases of measles in the state in the past 12 months.
Dr. Wes Stubblefield, president of the Alabama section of the American Academy of Pediatrics, is a pediatrician at the Infant and Child Clinic in Florence.
"The higher the number of people vaccinated against a disease, the higher the number of protected people, the more protection is provided, and those who can not really be vaccinated are protected," he said.
Measles is mostly known for the rash that it causes several days after the contraction of the disease, but the patient is already contagious for several days.
According to the CDC, initial symptoms may include fever, cough, runny nose and red eyes. Those who develop these symptoms should watch their mouth for small white spots, also called Koplik spots. After the first symptoms, the generalized, red and familiar rash can develop between one and seven days.
The disease can often be confused with other diseases in its infancy, Stubblefield said.
"We just need to familiarize ourselves again with these signs and symptoms and bring them up in our minds when we see patients with fever, rash and red eyes, because the initial symptoms are relatively minor and that they are not very important. he might be confused for something else, "he said. I said.
A quarter of people who contract measles are hospitalized, according to the CDC. According to Landers, complications are often more severe in young children, but not adults.
"The complications of measles in very young children begin with a risk not only of contracting pneumonia, or even a serious infection of the ear, but more specifically, the measles encephalitis that can occur and cause death , "Explained Landers.
Encephalitis means swelling of the brain, which can lead to fatal brain damage. The complication rate of measles is about 20 to 30%, according to ADPH.
"It's a very, very serious illness that we do not need to have in our population and that affects our children and causes these terrible long-term complications," Stubblefield said.
The CDC reports that anyone vaccinated who still develops measles will have a much less serious case and will be less contagious.
Landers said that people born before 1957, when there was no measles vaccine, are very likely to have already been exposed to measles. Once a person receives two doses of the MMR vaccine, she is considered to be protected for life. No booster shots are needed.
Doctors, as well as many pharmacies and departments of health, administer vaccines.
"We just keep working to educate," Landers said, "Of course I want to respect the opinions of others, but I have to rely on science.
"I have been doing this for 42 years. I have studied this all my career. I think the fact that people are not taking advantage of this vaccine with their young children is a real tragedy, while it is possible to prevent a deadly disease. is really very worrying for me as a doctor. "
Landers said the local health services would inform the community if a case was confirmed in the area. A single case should cause 12 to 18 other cases, according to ADPH.
During the investigation of a potential case, health department officials review the person's travel history, vaccination history and clinical presentation.
The health department is also conducting a Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test, which is sent to another state by a measles laboratory, Landers said. This will determine whether there is a real case of measles.
"On this basis, we will of course vaccinate the contacts around the person if it has not been vaccinated and inform the community of the existence of a case so that people can consult their records. of vaccines, "explained Landers.
In case of epidemic, infants under 6 months old can be vaccinated.
If a person is exposed, the ADPH states that receiving a dose of MMR vaccine within 72 hours "significantly reduces the risk of developing measles." Taking immunoglobulin-based drugs can also reduce risk, according to the CDC.
The CDC said those who contract measles should stay home at least four days after the onset of rash, keep the surfaces sanitized and adopt common habits for good hygiene.
Stubblefield said that Alabama had a vaccination rate of over 90% for the primary series of vaccines – including the MMR vaccine – that children must have before they enter school. He and other pediatricians, however, have noticed an increase in the number of parents who have refused or delayed these vaccines for their children.
"The lower our vaccination rates, the more common the epidemics will be," warned Stubblefield.
Although groups of people across the state and nation still believe that there is a link between vaccines and autism, as well as various health issues, Landers said that these beliefs do not exist. Were not supported by science.
Several organizations, including Autism Speaks, approve the MMR vaccine.
Stubblefield said the Florence Children and Infants Clinic has a policy that doctors will not take care of patients who will not be vaccinated.
"We are very committed to immunization, immunization safety and the effectiveness of immunization," Stubblefield said. "We think that if we can not agree on something that is important to us, we will probably not agree on many other things. So we think it's best to separate our care from those who choose to do it. this. And that's their choice, but we can also choose it, whether we want to see these patients or not. "
Landers urges people to check their vaccine records.
"Make sure you get vaccinated now, make sure you know your story and that your children are vaccinated," she said.