Measles Update


The topic of measles has been in the news lately, in increasingly frequency.  What started out as a few cases in downstate NY brought into the US by an unvaccinated individual who traveled abroad, has turned into pockets of outbreaks in various parts of our country.  While there is a debate in certain segments of our society about the benefits of vaccination, knowledge is power Here are the facts.

Measles is a highly communicable viral disease spread by respiratory droplet.  When an infected person talks, coughs or sneezes, these excreted droplets can get into the eyes, nose or mouth of another individual. These droplets travel less than 3 feet before falling to the ground.  The incubation period is 8-12 days from exposure and the contagious period is from 1-2 days before the first symptom appears to 4 days after the rash appears.  The symptoms of measles are fever, cough, runny nose, red and watery eyes, small red spots in the mouth and a characteristic rash that starts at the scalp and works down the body.  Infected individuals might also develop diarrhea and/or ear infections. Serious complications include pneumonia, brain swelling, seizures, mental retardation or death. This disease is not to be taken lightly.

Here are some things you should know:

  1. Our students: First and foremost, our Health Services Team is constantly working to document the immunization status of every student currently enrolled or about to enroll. We take this task very seriously and maintain meticulous records. (Our most recent audit scored 100% accuracy and compliance.) Yes, we do have a handful of students that are not fully immunized, but we know exactly who they are and which immunizations they lack. We have procedures in place if any student is medically diagnosed with a communicable disease, like measles. In addition, we are in constant contact with our medical director and we even discussed this very topic during April break.
  2. What are my risks?
    1. If you were born before 1957, you are considered to have immunity as you have lived through two major outbreaks of measles in our country.  (Congratulations, many people did not survive these measles outbreaks.)
    2. In 1963, our country licensed the first measles vaccine and by 1968, an improved vaccine was developed.  This is the same vaccine that is used today. Most people born in 1963 or later have had at least one dose of the measles vaccine.  In addition, many children also received a booster shot for measles in 1978.
    3. Your risk of contracting measles is greatest if you are not fully immunized and/or are immunosuppressed, especially if you travel abroad or are pregnant.  The greater risk is to children under the age of 1, the elderly, the immunosuppressed and the unvaccinated.
  3. What are your next steps?
    1. It would be beneficial to locate your immunization records.  If you don’t know where they are or where to look, the CDC has a flyer: Tips for Locating Old Immunization Records to help locate your records.  Please note that per NYS law, most school health records can be destroyed once the student reaches age 27.
    2. If you have your immunization records, you can ask your medical provider to upload them to NYSIIS, the statewide database for immunization records.  Once in NYSIIS, any medical provider in NYS can access your immunization records for you. If your medical provider’s office is not able to upload the records, Washington County Public Health (or the Public Health Office in your county) can do this upload.
    3. The CDC has a great resource tool.  Click on this link to go to an interactive site which will suggest the immunizations you should have based on your gender, age, medical conditions, and exposure threat level.
    4. If you are still concerned, consult with your medical provider and discuss this situation.  There is a blood test that can determine if you have immunity. Remember, measles is not the only communicable disease that can be avoided with vaccines.  Discuss all your immunizations to determine what you might be lacking.

To reduce your risk of illness, remember to follow good hygiene practices: wash hands before preparing and eating food, after using the bathroom, after sneezing or coughing, cough and sneeze in your elbow, eat right, exercise and get adequate sleep.