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Everything You Need to Know About Measles

May 21, 2019

It is well-known that the latest outbreak of measles is not just a local burden, but a nationwide concern. With over 800 individual cases to date, across 23 U.S. states, this is the largest measles outbreak since 1994.

Now, more than ever, it’s essential to understand the virus, its symptoms, and how to prevent it – not only for your individual safety, but for the safety of your community. Kristie McNally, DNP, APN, FNP-BC, of Marlton Primary & Specialty Care, answers everything we need to know about measles:

How contagious is measles, and how does it spread?

Measles is highly contagious and spreads through the air, when an infected person coughs or sneezes. The virus can live up to 2 hours after it is released, and nearly 90 percent of nonimmune people that come into contact with it – whether they breathe it in or touch a contaminated surface – may contract it.

What are some common symptoms of measles, and how long after infection does it take for them to appear?

Generally, the symptoms are fever, body aches, runny nose, a persistent cough, a flat or raised rash that begins on the face, and pink eye. It usually takes about 10 to 12 days after infection for symptoms to appear, however, this may vary.

How long does measles last, and how long will it be contagious for?

The symptoms will last for about a week, but in almost half of measles cases, further health complications arise. The period of contagion is estimated to be about five days before the appearance of a rash, to 4 days after the rash fades.

How can someone know if they’re still immune to measles?

If you received the MMR vaccine as a child, but are unsure of how many doses and concerned about your immunity, you should visit your primary care physician to have your titers checked. A titer report will show your level of immunity. If you didn’t receive both doses of the vaccine as a child, you can be given one booster dose as an adult, if needed.

Can someone who is fully vaccinated still get measles?

It is incredibly rare, but someone who has received both doses of the MMR vaccine may still come down with similar symptoms, but they won’t be nearly as intense or dangerous as they are for someone who is nonimmune. There are currently only theories about why this happens.

What can you do to treat measles?

There is no specific treatment for the virus other than supportive care, such as getting plenty of fluids, resting, and using over-the-counter pain-killers, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen.

Why should we be concerned with the extent of the current outbreak?

Measles spreads very easily to people who are nonimmune, and the health complications that can arise may be fatal. If you are unsure of your immunity level, it’s important to have it checked so that you don’t fall ill, and so that the spread of this virus across our nation can eventually cease.  

To learn more about Primary Care services at Jefferson Health in New Jersey, click HERE, or schedule an appointment by calling 1-844-542-2273.