Yampa Valley Medical Associates, P.C.
940 Central Park Drive, Suite 100
Steamboat Springs, CO 80487
A recent measles outbreak thought to have started in Disneyland has now infected 121 people (as of Feb 9th) in 17 states since Jan 1st. Measles has been documented in Colorado. Many people have questions about this outbreak and what it means for them.
What is measles?
Measles is a viral illness that is highly contagious. 90% of people close to an infected person will become ill if not immune. The symptoms can present like those of a common cold with a fever, runny nose, and sore throat, which are then followed by a rash. About one-third of people with measles will become very ill, and children under 5 years of age are even more susceptible to complications such as pneumonia, brain swelling, and death.
What can I do to protect myself and my family?
As always, staying away from people who are ill and washing your hands frequently is a good idea. Measles however is transmitted through the air, lingering in the air or on surfaces for up to 2 hours after an infected person has left that area, so the best protection is through vaccination.
Fortunately, the two-series vaccine against measles is highly effective. If you receive one dose of the vaccine you are 93% protected, 97% with the recommended two doses. The vaccine is so effective in fact that in 2000 the US declared measles “eliminated.” Despite this, people in the US can still be susceptible to measles if they are unvaccinated as visitors from foreign countries may carry the disease to the US. This includes places such as England, France, and Germany. There have been more measles cases recently in the US due to higher numbers of cases in commonly visited countries, but the virus has also spread in communities of unvaccinated people in the US.
As of 2014 Colorado had the lowest MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccination rate in the country (less than 82% of kindergartners are vaccinated).
It is recommended that children receive 2 doses of the measles (MMR) vaccine: first at age 1y and second age 4-6y (before kindergarten).
Do I need to get vaccinated?
The CDC considers that you are protected from measles if:
- you were born before 1957
- you received 2 doses of the measles vaccine (MMR)
- you received 1 dose of the measles vaccine and are preschool-aged or an adult who is in low risk setting for measles transmission
- lab confirmation of measles illness or immunity
If you do not fall into the above categories or have questions, you should contact your doctor to discuss further.
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