Measles 101

A helpful guide to understanding a dangerous virus.

Centers for Disease Control and

According to Dr. Steven Feder, primary care medical director at MVH, there’s been an uptick in measles in recent years. The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) reports that about 300 to 350 cases of measles were reported in all of 2018, and between Jan. 1 and April 11 of this year, 555 cases were reported in 20 states. In recent weeks, a measles public health emergency was declared in New York City. While there have been no instances of measles reported on the Vineyard, we would like to provide some general, and hopefully helpful, information.

How does measles present itself?
The symptoms of measles are a runny nose, pinkeye, cough, a high fever, and a rash.
What do you do if you think you have measles?
If you think you have been infected, Dr. Feder suggests you call your primary care physician or pediatrician — don’t go to the doctor’s office and risk contaminating others.
And if you have measles …
You should stay home for four days after you develop the rash. Talk to your doctor to discuss when it is safe to return. According to the CDC, you should also cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze, wash your hands with soap and water, avoid sharing drinks or eating utensils, and disinfect frequently touched surfaces.
Is there a way to know if you’ve been vaccinated?
Your doctor can determine if you are immune to measles based on your vaccination record, or if you had measles in the past. A blood test can also indicate if you’ve been vaccinated, if medical records are not available.
How is measles transmitted?
According to the CDC, “measles is a highly contagious virus that can spread to others through coughing and sneezing. It can live for up to two hours in an airspace 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. Measles is so contagious that if one person has it, up to 90 percent of the people close to that person who are not immune will also become infected.”
How is the vaccine administered?
The vaccine is given in two stages. Ideally, the first dose can be given to a child between the ages of 12 and 15 months. A booster then is typically given between the ages of 4 and 6 years. Very few people — about three out of 100 — who get two doses of measles vaccine will still get measles if exposed to the virus. “The vaccine is safe and effective, and it’s been around for a very long time,” Dr. Feder said.