|By Jim Goodson, M.P.H., courtesy CDC.|
Those numbers have dropped dramatically, but that doesn’t mean measles has gone away. In recent years, there have been a few big surges, including more than 660 cases in 2014 and 370 last year. This year has seen almost 80 cases already.
Part of that is because of a measles outbreak in Washington. About 50 cases have been diagnosed as of this week, mostly in young kids.
Measles is super contagious. It’s so contagious that if one person has it, 90 percent of people who are not immune to it will get sick too. Symptoms of measles appear seven to 14 days after becoming infected. Measles’ first symptoms are high fever, cough, runny nose and water eyes. Two to three days after symptoms first appear, tiny white spots may appear in your mouth. After three days, a rash breaks out on your skin, spreading from your head to your feet.
Measles spread by sneezing or coughing. You can avoid measles by getting vaccinated. The two-dose shot protects you from measles, mumps and rubella. You can also get a version of the shot that protects against chickenpox.
So if we have a vaccine and it works so well, what’s going on? The problem is that some people are refusing to vaccinate their kids, often because they are scared. There is no reason to be scared. Data are really clear that MMR protects far more than it harms kids. In the Washington outbreak, health officials have confirmed that most of the kids were not vaccinated.
Sadly, vaccination coverage has fallen nationally to about 92 percent for MMR. The World Health Organization has identified vaccine hesitancy as one of the biggest threats to global health this year. Globally, measles has seen a 30 percent increase, in part because of people who have been skipping vaccinations.
The good news is you can prevent the spread of measles. Get the MMR shot. Also, wash your hands often. Avoid touching your face, eyes, nose and mouth. Try to avoid close contact with people who are sick. And if you’re sick, don’t go to work or school.
Find out more about the importance of vaccinating kids with our Get Ready fact sheet.