The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is investigating a multi-state outbreak of measles originating from Disneyland Resort Theme Parks in California. This outbreak of 84 cases (as of January 28, 2015) has spread to 14 states including Washington, Oregon, Utah, Nebraska, Arizona and Colorado.
While no cases of measles have been reported in Montana yet, healthcare providers are being reminded to consider measles as a possible diagnosis if a patient has a rash, fever, cough, runny nose and conjunctivitis (irritated eyes).
Complications can occur in up to 30% of cases and are more likely to occur in children under 5 and individuals over age 20. These complications include diarrhea, ear infections, pneumonia, encephalitis (swelling of the brain), seizures, still-births, and spontaneous abortions in pregnant women.
The measles virus is transmitted through the air and can remain viable for up to 2 hours after the infected person has left the area. Positive cases can be contagious for four days before and after the rash first appears. These factors make the virus very contagious. People at most risk for contracting measles are those that are immune-suppressed, those with less than 2 vaccine doses, and those who are unimmunized.
How to prevent Measles and stop its spread
The best way to prevent measles is to make sure that you have been fully vaccinated. The MMR live attenuated vaccine protects against infection and has an efficacy rate of 99% when both doses are received. If you only have one documented dose, you should receive the second dose before any travel.
All persons born before 1957 have “assumed immunity” as measles was common before this time and almost everyone was infected or exposed to the virus. Therefore, anyone born before 1957 does not need to be vaccinated. However, if you were born before 1957 and are planning on travelling to any of the affected states or Disneyland, you could speak with your physician about getting blood drawn to confirm immunity to measles. This test is called a measles titer. The need for vaccination can be determined from this test.
If you are unsure of your immunization status or are worried that you might have been exposed to measles, please contact your physician immediately!
To schedule an appointment for immunizations, please call 406-582-3100 at the Gallatin City-County Health Department. If you would like more information on measles and the current outbreak, please go to the CDC webpage on measles www.cdc.gov/measles.