It is 12:31 a.m. I just finished nursing my son and I can’t turn my racing mind off. All I can think about are the families who tonight are “nursing” their children who have contracted measles. I can’t imagine the fear and sadness they are feeling as their child battles this preventable illness. I’m thinking about how I work in healthcare and could potentially expose my beautiful little boy to a preventable and sometimes deadly disease if the measles cases continue to spread – which they will. I’m also thinking how to help all my patients and how to protect them all during this time. In light of this, I thought I’d make my sleeplessness worthwhile and write this blog.
Measles is here. On January 27, 2015, we had a case confirmed in Cook County and now there are two confirmed cases of children less than one year old having the illness who attend the same daycare in Palatine. We are awaiting another three blood tests from kids at that same daycare. Let me put this in perspective: in the last five years in Illinois we have had 10 total confirmed measles cases. Pending the lab results of the other three daycare children, we are over half-way to 10 cases within one week. Measles is extremely contagious and is a virus that has a mortality rate of one to three in 1,000 cases (majority in kids less than five years old) with more than that experiencing serious lifelong complications of the illness.
Parents, with tears in my eyes, I urge you to make sure your children are vaccinated. Not only with the measles vaccine (aka the MMR vaccine) but with all the vaccines we have available. Please follow the recommended schedule to allow your child to receive as much immunity as possible as soon as possible. These vaccines, given at intervals suggested by the CDC’s recommended schedule, save children’s lives. Vaccines are safe. Vaccines are effective. Please make sure to protect your child, your family and everyone around you by choosing to vaccinate.
In addition, educate yourself and others with the following information about measles. If you have been exposed to a confirmed case or are showing the worrisome symptoms (fevers >101F, cough, red eyes, runny nose, with or without rash), you should contact your local health department. Do NOT go to the ER or your provider’s office without calling first if you fear you may have been exposed or are showing symptoms. As always, please call your physician’s office if you have any questions or concerns.
Below are the facts about measles:
Measles (aka Rubeola) is a highly contagious virus. It will infect nine out of 10 non-immunized who get exposed. It typically affects children. The illness begins on average 14 days after exposure.
Symptoms: cough, runny nose, red eyes, spots in the mouth along with a rash that spreads from head to toe and includes the palms and soles. Fever associated with illness starts 10 to 14 days after exposure, is 101 degrees F or higher, lasts for three to five days, then improves along with the rash improving at a similar time.
Contagious period: four days before rash appears until four days after rash appearance
Transmission route: secretions from the mouth/throat or nose usually spread by coughing or sneezing. The virus can also remain airborne for up to two hours in a closed space.
Diagnosis: usually clinical (by symptoms and patient history), but, to confirm the disease a blood test must be drawn.
Treatment: supportive care. This means fluids, fever reducers, pain control, rest and TLC.
Prevention: vaccination. First vaccine (confers approximately 94 to 98% immunity) given at 12 months old, booster (confers 99% immunity) given at four years old.
Possible exposure: A person who was potentially exposed and is experiencing symptoms a fever of 101 F or higher, cough, runny nose and red eyes with or without rash, should call the Department of Public Health as well as their healthcare provider. These individuals should not go to their doctor’s office or the emergency room as they could infect others around them.