What you need to know about measles

Northeast Alabama

(Photo: MGN Online)

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Health officials report the U.S. measles outbreak hit the highest mark in 25 years. Children younger than five and adults older than 20 are most likely to suffer from measles complications.

New York City health officials on Wednesday reported 61 new cases since late last week, pushing this year’s nationwide tally past the 667 cases reported for all of 2014. That would make 2019 the worst year for measles since 1994.

The Alabama Department of Public Health said an infected person went into the Chick-fil-A on Glenn Boulevard in Fort Payne at 5:54 p.m. on April 11 to order food. The person also stopped at D&J Travel Plaza on Highway 28 in Livingston to get food and gas earlier that day, at 2:20 p.m. Both stops were during the infectious period for the illness, officials said.

“The reason we have a vaccine for this virus is it is highly contagious so it can be caught just being in a room with a person, and two hours after they leave the room, it’s still a concern,” explained Dr. Amanda Storey of Grant Primary Care in Marshall County, a neighboring county to DeKalb County, where Fort Payne is located.

Measles spreads through the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes. “Just respiratory droplets. So anybody in the room with you, if they cough or sneeze, you are susceptible if you have not had the measles vaccine,” Storey said.

According to the Alabama Department of Public Health, symptoms occur one to two weeks after a person is in infected. “It usually starts out with a high fever,” Storey said, “You get a cough and runny nose. Typically you get red, watery eyes. Then it leads into a rash. There are very characteristic spots in the back of the throat. Then, the rash moves down from the head to the rest of the body.”

“The person who has it is contagious four days prior to the rash and four days after the rash,” she added.

Health officials say the best prevention against measles is getting two doses of a MMR vaccine after the age of one. “With one dose you’re 93% covered. With the second dose you’re 97%,” Storey explained.

A doctor can run tests to determine immunity.  Officials said anyone who suspects they were exposed should contact their health care provider before going to the office, follow instructions for reporting it, and also isolate themselves if they have any signs or symptoms of measles.

The CDC notes measles is so contagious that if one person has it, nine out of ten people around that person will also become infected if they are not protected.

Common complications from measles can include ear infections, hearing loss, and diarrhea. More severe complications like pneumonia, brain swelling and death can also occur.

Measles was eradicated in the United States in the year 2000.

More information on the disease and vaccine is available from the Alabama Department of Public Health or the CDC.

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