Updated: Feb 14, 2019
We're fielding a lot of questions about measles right now as the outbreak in our area continues to develop. So we thought we'd write a post with useful links to learn about measles, the vaccine, and the current outbreak. We'll be updating this post as information changes regarding the current outbreak status.
First things first: if you are concerned your child may have measles, please call us first. Heading directly to an emergency room or urgent care or other public site could put others at risk of illness if your child does indeed have the measles. Of course, if the situation is life threatening, the emergency room is the best place to go.
Some quick facts:
-Measles is spread through airborne droplets such as from coughs and sneezes. This means wearing a mask can HELP reduce the risk of contracting measles. However measles is VERY contagious so it doesn't take a huge exposure to come down with the illness. If you have a child too young to get the vaccination, avoiding exposure sites and public areas is the best way to protect your child.
-Measles is contagious four days before the rash appears and 4 days after. This means a person who has contracted the disease will be contagious before symptoms appear.
-1 in 20 children who contract measles develop pneumonia and 1 in 1,000 develop encephalitis or brain swelling.
-The measles vaccine is 93% effective after the first vaccination and 97% effective after the 2nd.
Per the CDC:
ACIP and CDC recommend two doses of MMR vaccine routinely for children, starting with the first dose at age 12 through 15 months and the second dose at age 4 through 6 years before school entry. Children can receive the 2nd dose earlier as long as it is at least 28 days after the first dose.
If you want to do the combination MMRV vaccine for the booster dose, it must be at least 3 months after the initial vaccination.
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Herd immunity is especially important for measles because it is so contagious. 90% of un-immunized people will catch measles if exposed, compared to only 3% of people who are immunized (and those who have received the vaccine typically have a lighter illness and are less likely to spread the virus). To contain the spread of measles in a population 93-95% need to be immunized; this is called the herd immunity threshold. As of 2017, the percent of 2 year-olds in Multnomah County with an MMR vaccine was only 87%. You can check immunization rates for your county and your child's school.
The University of Pittsburgh has set up a simulated time lapse of how measles spreads with and without her immunity; just select Portland.
Concerned about vaccine safety? Here is an article that breaks down recent studies regarding vaccines and the MMR vaccine in particular.