You Can Help Prevent Measles in Poweshiek County
The United States is currently experiencing a multi-state outbreak of measles. More than 100 people from 14 states have been confirmed as having measles. Fortunately, as of February 9, there are no confirmed measles cases in Iowa.
“This national measles outbreak has brought the protection provided by vaccinations back into the spotlight,” said Patty Hinrichs, RN, Grinnell Regional Public Health director. “It’s always important to keep your vaccinations up-to-date, but during times like this, when we know a virus is circulating in many states, it’s especially critical to check with your healthcare provider to be sure you and your family’s vaccinations are current.”
Measles is spread through the air by droplets from the nose, throat, and mouth of an infected person by coughing, sneezing, or simply talking. The best way to prevent measles is to get the measles-mumps-rubella shot (called MMR). Two doses of MMR will provide more than 99 percent of people lifelong protection against measles. Two doses of MMR are required for elementary and secondary school entry in Iowa. The first dose should be given at 12 months of age and the second dose can be administered as soon as 28 days later (however, the second dose is usually administered as part of the kindergarten shots given between 4-6 years of age). Generally, persons who started elementary school in Iowa after 1991 and were up-to-date on all school-entry vaccine requirements have received two doses of MMR vaccine.
It is recommended that adults born in 1957 or later receive at least one dose of MMR vaccine, or have a laboratory test proving that they are immune and are protected. It is assumed that persons born in the United States prior to 1957 were likely infected with the measles virus and therefore have presumptive immunity. In addition, two doses of MMR is recommended for adults of all ages who work or volunteer in healthcare facilities, travel internationally, or are students in a post-secondary institution, if they do not have laboratory proof of immunity.
Giving vaccines to those who may have already had measles or may have already received the recommended vaccination is not harmful; it only boosts immunity. Therefore, if someone is unable to verify prior vaccination or history of illness, the easiest, quickest and most appropriate thing to do is to vaccinate the individual.
Measles starts with a high fever. Soon after, it causes a cough, runny nose, and red eyes. Three to seven days after the fever, a rash of tiny, red spots breaks out. It usually starts at the head and spreads to the rest of the body. The rash can last for a week, and coughing can last for 10 days. Early symptoms of measles look and feel like a bad cold or even influenza. A person with measles can spread the virus to others for about eight days, starting four days before the rash appears and ending when the rash has been present for four days. This is why it is important to stay home when you are ill.
Measles is one of the most infectious diseases on earth; this is why Grinnell Regional Public Health and public health agencies statewide work with the Iowa Department of Public Health to immediately alert the public about possible exposure to measles if a person is confirmed to have this disease.
If you or a family member needs an MMR vaccination, call Grinnell Regional Public Health at 641-236-2385 to schedule an appointment. You may also check with your primary care provider.