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Measles: What you should know

Member Services
February 20, 2015
Categories: Alerts, Advisories, Health

With measles in the news following the outbreak originating at Disneyland in Anaheim, California, we would like to update Global Rescue members with facts about the disease and the current situation.

Measles is an airborne, highly contagious but preventable infection caused by the measles virus.  It is transmitted via droplets from the nose or mouth of infected persons, and remains active in the air or on infected surfaces for up to 2 hours.  At highest risk for infection and complications are unvaccinated young children, however any non-immune person (one who has not been vaccinated, or was vaccinated but is not immune) can become infected.  Onset of symptoms typically occurs 10 to 12 days after exposure, and may last up to a week.

Measles infection is characterized by:

-- Fever                                           
-- Cough
-- Runny nose
-- Red, watery eyes
-- Rash (flat red spots)

There is no specific antiviral treatment for the measles virus, though severe complications can be avoided via aggressive supportive care.  Proper nutrition and prevention of dehydration are key elements of measles treatment.  Antibiotics may be prescribed to combat additional complicating infections (such as ear/eye infections, or pneumonia).

Routine vaccination for children is a key preventative measure, and the accepted public health standard.  A single dose of MMR vaccine is approximately 93% effective at preventing measles, if exposed to the virus; the effectiveness increases to 97% with two doses.  Though measles is not prevalent in developed countries, it is still prevalent within the developing world – and accounts for nearly 150,000 deaths each year.  

U.S. outbreak background

The current measles outbreak began when nine people—eight of whom were unvaccinated—were infected after visiting the Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, California in December 2014. Dozens of patients have been linked to Disneyland visitors. Although the source of the outbreak is unknown, authorities believe it may have been imported by an unvaccinated individual who was infected overseas.

U.S. current situation

As of 11 February, local health officials state that 110 measles cases have been confirmed across California. At least 39 of the cases were linked to the Disneyland. Approximately 60 percent of the patients were aged 20 years or older and the majority of the patients were unvaccinated. One in five of the patients required hospitalization. 

Nationwide, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that at least 121 cases of measles have been confirmed across 17 states and Washington DC from 1 January to 6 February

U.S. outbreak forecast

Measles has not been considered endemic to the United States since a nationwide vaccination program eliminated the disease by 2000. Although sporadic outbreaks still occur throughout the country, most of these originate when an unvaccinated individual imports the case and is exposed to unvaccinated communities.

Outside the U.S.

While routine vaccinations have helped the U.S. reduce measles to very low levels, measles is still common in other countries. According to NBCNews.com, in 2014, Europe had 3,840 measles cases and Italy had 1,921 cases. In 2013, there were more than 10,000 cases across Europe. In the past five years, France has had more than 23,000 cases.

In 2014, the Philippines experienced a major measles outbreak that affected 57,000 people. China, Angola, Brazil, Ethiopia, Indonesia and Vietnam also experienced major outbreaks.

If you plan to travel internationally, consult the CDC recommendations for travelers here.

 


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