Reports that a person with measles made at least two stops in Alabama – including one at a Fort Payne restaurant – has added to concerns over the virus being spread to the state.
That’s a real possibility, according to health experts.
Here’s what you need to know:
What’s happening in Alabama?
The Alabama Department of Public Health announced yesterday it had learned a person with a confirmed case of measles traveled through Alabama to Tennessee on April 11. On the way, the person made two stops – D&J Travel Plaza on Highway 28 in Livingston at 2:20 p.m. and Chick-fil-A on Glenn Blvd. in Fort Payne at 5:54 p.m.
And that’s a big deal because…
Those stops raise concerns that people at both locations were exposed to the highly contagious virus. Measles can live up to two hours in the air or on surfaces after an infected person coughs or sneezes and a person with measles is contagious four days before and four days after the virus’ telltale rash appears. It is spread person-to-person through coughing and sneezing or touching items and surfaces that an infected person has coughed or sneezed on.
How contagious are measles?
A single case of measles will infect up to 95 percent of unvaccinated people who are exposed, the ADPH said, resulting in an additional 12-18 cases on average. Up to 30 percent of infected people have complications from the disease, especially children younger than age 5 or adults older than 20.
What to do if you were potentially exposed?
The ADPH recommends people who were potentially exposed by the person traveling through Alabama to contact their healthcare provider before being seen at their office. They also advise potential patients to follow instructions for reporting and to isolate themselves to avoid spreading the disease.
What are the symptoms of measles?
Symptoms of measles appear seven to 14 days after a person is infected.
Common early symptoms include:
- High fever, up to 105 degrees F
- Runny nose
- Red or watery eyes
Two to three days after symptoms begin, an infected person typically develops tiny white spots that appear inside of the mouth. Three to five days after symptoms begin, the infected person could also develop a rash of flat red spots that appear on the face and spread to the neck, chest, arms, legs and feet, sometimes topped by small raised bumps.
The national scene
The report from Alabama comes amid concerns over a national outbreak of the disease.
The Centers for Disease Control announced Wednesday measles cases in the U.S. were at the highest level since the disease was eliminated in 2000. As of April 24, there are 695 cases of measles in 22 states, mostly the result of a few large outbreaks – one in Washington state and two in New York.
According to the CDC, the most recent outbreaks started when an unvaccinated traveler visited a country where measles are widespread. They become infected and return to the U.S. and expose people in their community who are not vaccinated.
“When measles is imported into a community with a highly vaccinated population, outbreaks either don’t happen or are usually small,” the CDC said. “However, once measles is in an unvaccinated community, it becomes difficult to control the spread of the disease.”
States with measles cases
The states with reported cases of measles are: Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Texas, Tennessee, and Washington.
The World Health Organization reported this month that there has been a 300 percent increase in the number of measles cases worldwide compared with the first 3 months of 2018.
No cases in Alabama, yet…
Measles have now been reported in Georgia, Florida and Tennessee and health officials warn it will likely spread to Alabama.
“We’re likely to have one or more cases here in Alabama,” William Curry, M.D., Senior VP for Population Health, UAB, said Monday. “It is a very infectious and effective virus. Once it gets started in a vulnerable population it will spread quickly. If we have neighborhoods of people who are not immunized and we are likely to see more than one case.”
The ADPH has conducted 211 investigations into possible measles cases in Alabama in the past 12 months; none of the cases were found to be the measles.
Thought to be eliminated in 2000
Measles was declared eliminated from the U.S. in 2000, almost 40 years after the first live measles vaccine was licensed. In the decade before the vaccinations, an average of 549,000 measles cases and 495 measles deaths were reported annually in the U.S.
Since 2000, the annual number of cases has ranged from a low of 37 in 2004 to a high of 667 in 2014.
How do you protect yourself from the measles?
A two-round dose of measles vaccinations is the most effective way to protect yourself from the disease. The first dose of the MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella) vaccine is given when a child is between 12 and 15 months, the second between 4 and 6 years. Two doses of the vaccine provides protection against the disease 97 percent of the time, the CDC said. If the remaining 3 percent contract measles, they are likely to have a milder illness and be less likely to spread the disease to other people.
Do I need a measles booster?
That’s a complicated question and the answer has to do with when and how you were vaccinated. If you were born prior to 1963, it’s thought you either had the measles or were exposed to it and don’t need a vaccination.
If you were born between 1963 and 1967, you could have received a less effective form of the vaccine. People born in that period should consider getting a booster.
Adults born between 1968 and 1989 need to ensure they’ve had at least one dose of the measles vaccine. Those that are in a high-risk settings, including people who work at schools, in healthcare or who travel internationally, are advised to have two doses separated by at least 28 days.
What if I don’t know about my vaccination history?
If you’re unsure whether you’ve been vaccinated or what type you received, the CDC recommends trying to locate your vaccination records. If that’s not possible, you should get vaccinated. There are no dangers or side effects associated with receiving another dose.
Is there anyone who should not get a measles vaccination?
Pregnant women, people with a weakened immune system or those with a life-threatening reaction to neomycini, a component of the vaccine, or to a previous dose, are advised against getting vaccinated. When in doubt, ask your healthcare provider.
Is the MMR vaccination safe?
While any vaccination has the potential for side effects, a large 2015 study showed the MMR vaccine did not increase risk for autism spectrum disorder. Researchers analyzed health records for 95,727 children, including more than 15,000 children unvaccinated at age 2 and more than 8,000 still unvaccinated at age 5. Nearly 2,000 of the children were considered at risk for autism because they were born into families that already had a child with the disorder.
“Consistent with studies in other populations, we observed no association between MMR vaccination and increased ASD risk,” the study’s authors wrote. “We also found no evidence that receipt of either one or two doses of MMR vaccination was associated with an increased risk of ASD among children who had older siblings with ASD.”
For more information…
Want more information on measles? You can learn more at the CDC here.