Reports this week indicated 2018 is on track for the most cases of measles since 2014, when 667 cases were reported across the U.S. However, this was misinterpreted in the press.
The latest information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports 107 people from 21 states have been diagnosed with measles from January 1 to July 14, 2018. Among those states, Louisiana has reported just two cases of measles this year. These numbers are in line with a typical year, and not at elevated levels as was reported.
The measles cases that are being reported represent cases that come to the U.S. from other countries that have endemic cases. (Endemic means belonging exclusively or confined to a particular place.)
Measles is not currently spreading from person to person in the U.S. or Louisiana.
Louisiana’s two cases are unrelated
Dr. Frank Welch, immunizations director for the Louisiana Department of Health, says the two Louisiana cases – which happened in early spring – stem from unvaccinated persons who traveled or lived outside the U.S.
The two cases are unrelated. The first report, in April, involved an unvaccinated man traveling from London to New Orleans for WrestleMania. The second report came in May and involved an unvaccinated school-age child who had traveled to a country where measles is endemic.
Since the two cases occurred separately they do not meet the criteria for an outbreak, which is when a disease spreads rapidly from person to person.
Prevention is key
Even though there’s no measles outbreak, it’s important to be mindful of protection from the disease. The best prevention is two doses of the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine, also known as MMR. Two doses are about 97 percent effective against measles. Check with your primary care provider if you’re unsure whether you have been vaccinated.
Good hygiene is also important to prevent the spread of measles. Practice good hand hygiene habits, such as washing thoroughly with soap and warm water. Avoid sharing food, drinks and utensils.
Protecting our children
Children, particularly babies and the very young, are especially vulnerable to measles. The disease can lead to pneumonia, lifelong brain damage, deafness and occasionally death.
Children are required to receive two MMR vaccinations – at 1 year to 15 months of age and again at age 4, before starting school – according to Louisiana law. It applies to children in public, private or charter schools and home-schooled children. Exemptions are allowed for religious, philosophical or medical reasons, such as allergies to components of the vaccine.
Among the concerns cited for not vaccinating children with MMR is a belief that the vaccine causes autism. No such link has been found among scientists in the U.S. and other countries who have carefully studied the vaccine.
Louisiana’s exemption rate for the MMR vaccine is less than 1 percent, according to Dr. Welch.
Signs of measles include high fever, cough, runny nose and red, watery eyes, followed by a rash that typically spreads from the head to the rest of the body. Sometimes, tiny white spots appear in the mouth two to three days after symptoms develop.
Complications commonly found with measles are ear infections and diarrhea, seen in about 10 percent of patients.
Measles is highly contagious and becomes so four days before the appearance of rash and four days after the onset of rash. It is spread by coughing, sneezing or sometimes being in the same room as someone who is infected.
There is no cure for measles, so treatment is merely to alleviate the symptoms. The recommended treatment for measles includes rest, pain and fever reducers, fluids, vitamin A supplements and the use of a humidifier.
A person who has developed measles is considered immune to the disease after it has been contracted. Regardless, vaccination is still recommended to protect against mumps and rubella.
For more information about measles, visit http://ldh.la.gov/index.cfm/page/3025 or https://www.cdc.gov/measles/index.html.