The recent outbreak of measles in several parts of the nation has brought the once thought to be eliminated virus to the forefront of media and everyday conversation.
Dr. Tom Weida, chief medical officer at the University Medical Center, and Dr. Brian Gannon, clinic director of pediatrics at UMC, have provided answers to several frequently asked questions about measles and vaccinations to help you prepare against the highly contagious virus.
Can I get measles?
Measles is very contagious, but the vaccine is also really good at protecting people. Anyone in the following groups is safe and should not get infected, even if exposed to a case of measles:
- Anyone born before 2014 who should’ve had two doses of the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine.
- People born before 1990 may not know their status, but one dose is enough as long as they do not have a known exposure to measles.
- Health care workers should have two doses of the vaccine, commonly referred to as MMR.
- Anyone born before 1957 is presumed to be protected.
- For children between 1-5 years, all should have at least one dose.
Some people (mostly health care workers) may have had blood work that proves they are immune.
Who needs another dose of MMR?
- Health care workers born before 1990 should check their records. If they only have evidence of one MMR, they can either get a second MMR or get blood work to prove immunity.
- Children 6-11 months are safe for now, but an early dose may be recommended if there is a local outbreak.
- Children who have had their first birthday but have not started kindergarten need only one dose of MMR, unless there is a known exposure.
- Children who are 4 years old but only have one MMR should have a second dose.
- Anyone who has chosen not to receive MMR is at risk for getting the disease. They may want to reconsider their choice given the current outbreak.
Use the media to monitor state public health reports from the Alabama Department of Public Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for updates to these recommendations as the situation changes.
What should I expect if there is a local outbreak?
Watch for the following symptoms:
- Red, swollen eyes
- High fever
- White spots in the mouth
- Rash starting day 4-5
If you or your child is undervaccinated (see the groups in the previous question), stay out of public spaces until the outbreak has passed. Also, if symptoms of measles occur, contact your medical provider and remind them if you or your child is not vaccinated.
UMC has a plan in place for assessing anyone with possible measles, including taking blood to confirm the infection.