You may have seen stories on the local news about a recent outbreak and concern for Measles. It is true, there have been 5 recent cases confirmed in South Texas and another case confirmed in Central Texas. While this is concerning for public health, most kids and adults that have been immunized will not likely be affected by the disease. However, for those that are not immunized or partially immunized, Measles should be a real concern.
Measles is an incredibly contagious viral disease and is spread through the air. Sharing the same airspace, such as a classroom, airplane, home or clinic waiting room, with a person infectious with measles may be enough to spread the disease to others. The disease can even be spread to others that enter the area up to 1-2 hours after the infectious person left the area.
Once exposed to an active case, symptoms typically begin in about 8-12 days. Measles typically begins with a mild to moderate fever, accompanied by cough, runny nose, and conjunctivitis (red, irritated eyes that are matted); all symptoms similar to a routine upper respiratory illness. Within a few days, the fever will spike to >104 and the typical rash on the skin appears. The rash will begin on the face then rapidly spread down the body, ending in the legs and feet. The rash will begin to fade after about a week. They are considered infectious and able to spread the disease to others until 4 days after the rash began. Measles is confirmed with a blood test.
There is no specific treatment for measles, however using medications for the symptoms is most important. Over the counter medicines can be used for the cough and Ibuprofen and/or Tylenol may be used to treat the fever. The other important treatment is isolation from the public. If Measles is suspected, the child or adult should stay out of the public until 4 days after the rash started.
The best prevention to getting measles is a routine vaccination series with the MMR vaccine. For those that are not immunized, most primary care doctors or pediatricians would be able to begin the series.
There will likely be more cases reported in the near future. If you are not vaccinated, the CDC recommends starting the series as soon as possible.