Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve definitely heard that there is currently a measles outbreak in various areas of the United States. It is most notable in Rockland County, New York, where there have been nearly 200 confirmed cases. The county has now declared the outbreak an official emergency and may begin fining parents who do not get their children the MMR vaccine. The MMR vaccine is the Measles, Mumps, and Rubella vaccine and physicians have directly linked the measles outbreak to a relatively new movement against this vaccine. Many parents believe that the MMR vaccine can cause autism. Others are against vaccinations for religious reasons. For these reasons, parents are opting out of their children receiving the MMR vaccine and this could very well be the reason that the measles has made such a significant return in the US.
The recent outbreak has brought up a lot of questions about measles and who can become infected. Does it only affect children? How is it contracted and can it be treated with certain medications? What are the symptoms? How can it be prevented? To find out if you are vulnerable to the measles outbreak, read on…
What Is the Measles?
The measles is an extremely contagious viral infection that lives in the mucus of your nose and throat. Previously a very rare illness, it has seen a resurgence with the “anti-vaxxer movement,” a movement in which parents are not giving their children the MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella) vaccine. While mild cases of the measles can resolve on their own, the illness can become serious very quickly and lead to dire complications.
How Do You Contract the Measles?
As stated earlier, the measles is a highly contagious illness. That is why, in this age where many children are not being vaccinated, we are seeing it lead to full-on outbreaks. Measles is spread through direct contact with droplets from the nose, mouth, or throat of an infected person. Studies have shown that if one person is infected with the measles, they will spread the virus to 90% of unvaccinated individuals that they come into contact with.
What Are the Symptoms of the Measles?
- High fever
- Sore throat
- Runny nose
- Red eyes
- Tiny white bumps on the tongue
- Loss of appetite
- Light sensitivity
Who Is Susceptible To the Measles Outbreak?
While the measles is mostly known to affect unvaccinated children (under the age of 16), it can affect anyone under particular circumstances. This includes, but is not limited to, the following:
- Unvaccinated adults
- Individuals with impaired immune systems
- Elderly individuals
- Children unable to receive vaccinations due to other underlying conditions
- Individuals traveling to and from other countries
How Can the Measles Be Prevented?
The most effective way to protect yourself from contracting the measles is to have the MMR vaccination. The vast majority of adults had the vaccination as a child and are now protected against it. This is why it is strongly recommended that all parents take their children to get the MMR vaccination if not done already. It is important for the vast majority of children to receive the MMR vaccine because it creates a herd immunity. Not only does this decrease the chances of an outbreak, but it also works to protect children who are physically unable to receive vaccinations due to other underlying conditions.
Getting the MMR vaccination is especially important for individuals who travel internationally and may be exposed to the virus in another country. Staying away from individuals that you know are infected with the virus will also help to decrease your likelihood of contracting the illness. And, as always, simple measures like covering your mouth when you cough and sneeze can help to prevent the spread of viruses in general.