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The Measles Are Back and Here’s What You Need to Know

As the number of measles cases continue to climb in communities like Washington’s Clark County and Oregon’s Multnomah County, many parents have been left wondering whether their families are safe.

“A key part in determining the risk of measles is the immunity status of a patient,” according to Dr. Christian Molstrom, Associate Medical Director and Clinical Informatics at Legacy-GoHealth Urgent Care.

The good news is if you and your children received your two doses of the MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine, recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention between 12-15 months and then again between 4-6 years of age, you “do not need to worry about contracting measles, even if you are exposed.”

If you or your children did not receive both measles vaccinations, however, it’s likely you could catch measles if you come in contact with an infected person. What symptoms should you be on the lookout for and when is medical assistance advised?

Let’s take a look.

How Do You Contract Measles?

Measles is a highly contagious respiratory infection that is caused by the rubeola virus and spreads when people breathe in or have direct contact with the virus-infected fluid.

Like other respiratory infections, the measles virus lives in the nose and throat of an infected person and can be passed through droplets sprayed into the air during a cough or sneeze. The virus can also be spread through physical contact on surfaces touched by an infected child or adult.

What makes measles so communicable is the virus remains airborne and on surfaces for two hours after the release of infected droplets.

Additionally, a person can be contagious and not even know it, because the virus can spread up to four days before measles rash symptoms appear and continue until four days after the rash has been present (for a total of eight days).

What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Measles

Measles symptoms become noticable 7-18 days after exposure to the virus, following contraction and incubation periods that are symptom free. Typical signs and symptoms of measles infection include:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Runny nose
  • Red eyes (conjunctivitis)
  • Red spots with blue-white centers inside the mouth (known as Koplik’s spots)
  • Skin rashes that starts on the face and progresses downward

These signs and symptoms develop in stages that progress over a couple weeks’ time.

  1. Measles begins with a mild to moderate fever, often accompanied by initial symptoms like a cough, sore throat, runny nose, and conjunctivitis. These symptoms generally last 2-3 days. Koplik’s spots can also appear inside the mouth during this time.
  2. The rash onset then follows, beginning with small red spots on the face that are slightly raised and blotchy. These rashes spread down the neck and torso to the arms, legs and feet. During this time, an infected person can have a high fever. Infants are also prone to having diarrhea and older children can have swollen lymph nodes (lymphadenopathy) in the ear, neck and occipital glands.
  3. Measles rash lasts 5-6 days, and fades first from the face and progressing down to the feet. The other symptoms gradually abate over the following days.

Measles in Babies and Children

Because they may have weaker immune systems, or may not have received both doses of measles vaccines, children under the age of five years – as well as pregnant women and those with other risk factors – are more susceptible to contracting measles and suffering from complications (ear infections, pneumonia, encephalitis, etc.).

If there is a measles outbreak in your community, it’s important to take the necessary precautions to protect your child. Children can receive their second dose of the MMR vaccine earlier, as long as it’s 28 days after their first dose.

Avoiding crowded public spaces, including daycare centers and schools where germs spread easily, can also help.

CaptionMeasles rash onset is approximately 14 days after exposure, 2-3 days after the fever.

What Should You Do if You Think You Have Measles?

Should you or your child have any of the above measles symptoms, there are specific measures you can take to help ensure the infected person gets better and others are not exposed to the virus.

Dr. Molstrom recommends the following, which is protocol at Legacy-GoHealth Urgent Care centers in Oregon and Washington..

  1. The first thing anyone should do if they’re concerned about having measles is contact the local county health department. Whenever possible, infected adults and children should stay home to reduce spreading the infection. The county can arrange for care in the patient’s home.
  2. Since measles can lead to other complications, especially in babies and children, those with the virus should be watched closely by a doctor. Call your primary care physician or your child’s pediatrician for next steps on diagnosis and measles treatment.
  3. You can also call a Legacy-GoHealth Urgent Care center. We suggest that you call instead of coming in so we can take the proper safety precautions to protect your family and others. Our medical staff will assist the person who is potentially infected over the phone and provide recommendations regarding the best course of action, which might be going to the emergency department.
  4. Because there is no cure for measles, the best way to treat a viral infection is to help alleviate its symptoms. Medicine might be recommended to bring down a fever. Your doctor or the public health department may recommend that you receive a dose of the MMR vaccine within 72 hours of exposure. This can help prevent or lessen symptoms. You and your infected child should also get plenty of fluids and rest, and stay away from other people during the recovery period to prevent the spread of the illness.

Contact Legacy-GoHealth Urgent Care

Need care for measles that can’t wait? Please call Legacy-GoHealth Urgent Care at 1-855-810-7006 or your local county health department for assistance.

For more information on measles causes, treatment and prevention, check out these resources from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention.


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