Amid an unprecedented outbreak of six measles cases in Shelby County, parents are asking questions about potential exposure to the infection. Dr. Manoj Jain, an infectious disease doctor who also writes a column for The CA, answers common questions about measles.
Is the measles outbreak a “big deal?”
Yes, the six cases of measles in Shelby County are more than the four cases in the entire nation since Jan. 1, 2016, and less than the nine cases of measles in the state of Tennessee in the past decade. This will make national news.
How many people are not vaccinated?
Too many. One in 10 people is not vaccinated for measles. They are highly vulnerable, and most often fuel the epidemic.
How contagious is measles?
Highly contagious. If you are in contact with a person with measles there is a 90-percent chance you will contract measles (if you are not vaccinated). No chance or minimal chance of contracting if you are vaccinated. Also, you can contract measles if you are in the same space up to two hours after a contagious person has coughed or sneezed.
How effective is a measles vaccine?
Very effective. One vaccine provides 93-percent protection. Two vaccines (as recommended) provides 97-percent protection. Those born before 1957 do not need vaccination — they are already immune due to exposure.
Who is most vulnerable?
Most vulnerable are children who are less than one year, because they have yet to get their first vaccine and because the immunity from the mother has weaned. Also, those with a weak immune system and those who are not vaccinated.
Is measles lethal?
Yes. For every 1,000 cases of measles there will be 1 to 3 deaths
What are the signs and symptoms of measles?
If you were exposed to measles today, then after days you would develop high fever, cough, runny nose, and red eye, then two days later you develop a rash starting from head to toes involving the palms and soles for seven days and then the complications of pneumonia and encephalitis can develop over the next few weeks or after years.
What can I do if I am not vaccinated and exposed to measles?
You have 72 hours after exposure to be vaccinated. After that time some people can receive antibodies against measles to protect them.
Can the measles vaccine cause autism?
No. Measles vaccine has caused zero reported cases of autism.
Then why don’t parents vaccinate their children?
I don’t know.
Source: Commercial Appeal