With the recent outbreak of measles in the Vancouver, Washington area, it is possible that this highly contagious illness could spread to our region. It is important for local residents to be aware of this.
Measles often begins with a high fever, cough, runny nose, and red, watery eyes. After 3 to 5 days, a rash usually begins on the face and spreads to other parts of the body. You can catch measles from an infected person as early as four days before they have a rash and up to four days after the rash appears. You can get measles just by being in a room where a person with measles has been. The measles virus stays in the air for up to two hours after that person has left.
Fortunately, most people in this region have been vaccinated. When a person has been vaccinated as recommended, the vaccine is up to 97 percent effective in preventing measles. The main people at risk in the current outbreak are those lacking immunity, which is achieved by being vaccinated or by having had the measles disease itself.
If you think you or your child might have symptoms of measles:
- Call your doctor right away if you see possible symptoms, particularly if you have had known exposure to someone with active measles. Your doctor will let you know if you need to come in for a visit. Measles is very contagious, which means you could give it to someone in a waiting room. It’s important to tell your doctor or clinic that you have symptoms of measles before you go in. They will give you instructions for what to do so you do not spread it further.
- Stay home if you have the measles. Don’t go to school, work, to the store or to other people’s homes. Don’t have visitors to your home if you or your child have been diagnosed with measles.
- The best way to protect your family from measles is to get vaccinated. Doctors recommend that all children get the MMR shot and adults should get one if they didn’t have it as a child. The MMR shot is safe and effective at preventing measles, mumps and rubella. Children usually do not have side effects from the shot. In the few who do, side effects such as fever, mild rash or soreness are mild and do not last long.
For more information or questions, please contact your primary care provider’s office or your local health department.