Recent Measles Cases Underscore Continued Need for Vaccination

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Two cases of measles have been confirmed in Massachusetts, and medical experts are encouraging people to get vaccinated. They are also advising healthcare providers to be looking out for future cases. “I would strongly encourage all parents to get their children vaccinated and avoid the alternative,” Dr. Mark Pasternack, chief of Pediatric Infectious Diseases at Massachusetts General Hospital told the Boston Herald. “You don’t know how bad this disease can be until you see it front and center.”

Vaccination is a vital part in combating the measles, a highly contagious disease. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), measles is a leading cause of childhood death globally, even though it can be managed through a safe, cost-effective vaccine. The incidence declined by 78 percent between 2000 and 2012 due to vaccination, and before widespread vaccination was introduced globally, an estimated 2.6 million people died each year from the measles. In the U.S., vaccination has kept incidence rates low. An average of 60 cases are reported each year, many following international travel. However, in the first eight months of 2013, 159 cases were confirmed the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) states.

The Massachusetts Department of Health issued a clinical measles alert on February 24, identifying two cases. According to the release, four cases of measles have been diagnosed in the Commonwealth in 2014. Of the two recent cases, one was identified after international travel, and both had an unknown vaccination history. A total of three of the four cases followed international travel, but no further information was provided in the alert about the previous patients.

Identified as Case #1 and Case #2, the two people with measles reside in the Metrowest region of Massachusetts. An additional health alert was issued for the Trader Joe’s in Framingham. It informs customers that a person with an infectious case was in the store February 15 and February 16. Samba, a restaurant, has a similar warning for people who dined there on February 15. An unnamed corporate environment has been exposed to the disease, a third release states. Health officials are currently working to compile a list of places the person with measles frequented when the disease could be spread.

Measles is spread by coughing, sneezing, and close contact with a person who has the virus. When droplets with the disease enter the air, another person can breathe them in; 90 percent of people who have not been immunized contract measles after coming into contact with it. Four days after being exposed, the CDC says people begin to display signs and symptoms.

Massachusetts is not the only state where residents are being put on alert. Four cases have been confirmed in Orange County, California by the the Orange County Health Care Agency. A press release identifies four potential exposure locations between February 10 and 14. In the San Francisco Bay area, Contra Costa Health Services warned people of possible exposure after a a UC Berkeley was identified as having measles attended class, and used the Bay Area Rapid Transit system.

The CDC explains what to look for with cases of the measles. A mild or moderate fever accompanied by a cough, runny nose, sore throat, and red eyes are the first signs of the measles. A few days later, white spots with blue-white centers appear inside the mouth. Three to five days after the first symptoms appear, a red or reddish-brown rash occurs. Starting at the hairline, it spreads down a person’s body along the neck, rear, legs, and feet. Fevers can reach 104 degrees Fahrenheit; a few days later, the fever will decline, and the rash will abate.

There are other complications that sometimes develop with measles. For about every ten cases, one person will develop an ear infection. In every 20 cases, up to one person contracts pneumonia; approximately one out of 1,000 gets encephalitis, and one to two out of 1,000 die.

The measles vaccine is the MMR shot, standing for measles, mumps, and rubella. “It’s very contagious, but the vaccine is also very effective,” Dr. Greg Wallace, an infectious disease expert at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention told the Boston Globe in an interview. “For those of us who are vaccinated, the exposure is not really a concern, but if you haven’t been vaccinated and are exposed, it’s very contagious.”

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