Measles case points up need to get vaccinated

From 2001 to 2012, the United States averaged 60 cases of measles a year. In the entire country.

But as happens when something is so out of sight, out of mind, people grew lax about getting vaccinated against the disease.

So while measles hasn’t exactly come roaring back, the number of U.S. cases did almost double to 118 in 2017, including two in Michigan. The majority of the people who contracted measles were not vaccinated, according to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.

And the state already has its first confirmed case of 2018, in Washtenaw County. That individual was hospitalized, and is currently recovering, according to MDHHS.

Worse, that person had just returned March 6 from traveling overseas, so potentially exposed others at Detroit Metropolitan Airport. The MDHHS now advises those who were in customs or baggage claim in the airport’s north terminal between 2 and 5 p.m. March 6 seek medical attention if they develop symptoms of the disease.

Measles is a respiratory infection that can result in hospitalization, pneumonia, encephalitis and death. The illness has a 10- to 12-day incubation period and initially presents with a high fever, red eyes, cough, runny nose, photophobia and is followed by a red, raised body rash starting on the head and face that then progresses to the rest of the body. Individuals may be contagious for a few days before they present with symptoms, which increases the potential of exposing others.

Because measles is easily spread, vaccination is the best protection against the disease. Successful prevention and control of measles requires high levels of immunity in all communities.

“This case underscores the importance of following vaccine recommendations and being up-to-date on vaccines,” said Dr. Eden Wells, MDHHS Chief Medical Executive. “Immunizations are the best way to protect our families and communities from the harmful, sometimes deadly consequences of vaccine-preventable diseases like measles. If you have questions about a child’s vaccination status or your own vaccination history, talk to your doctor right away to ensure your family has optimal protection.”

The measles vaccine is highly effective and very safe, according to the MDHHS. Adults who do not have evidence of immunity against measles should get at least one dose of the vaccine. The first of two routine childhood measles vaccine doses is given at 12 months of age. A second vaccine dose is given before the start of kindergarten.

For international travel, infants as young as 6 months should be vaccinated against measles. Measles vaccine, or other acceptable documentation of immunity to measles, is recommended for all persons travelling overseas.

In an effort to help parents protect their children from serious vaccine-preventable diseases, MDHHS is participating in the I Vaccinate campaign. I Vaccinate provides the facts parents need to make informed decisions about vaccinations. For more information about immunizations and the I Vaccinate campaign, go to IVaccinate.org.

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