How to Protect Your Family from Measles

You may be aware of measles cases being confirmed across the United States. As of April 4, 2024, there have been 113 reported cases of measles in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The majority of patients who have contracted measles this year have required hospitalization to manage complications from the disease. 

Though measles has been officially eradicated from the U.S. since 2000, it still infects a number of Americans each year. This is mostly due to unvaccinated people who travel outside of the U.S. and bring it back with them.

What Is Measles?

Measles, also called rubeola, is a highly contagious airborne infection caused by a virus. It spreads when a person infected with measles coughs or sneezes. According to the CDC, measles can stay in the air for up to two hours.

Signs and Symptoms of Measles

Most people start showing symptoms of measles about one or two weeks after exposure to the virus. Early symptoms of measles may include:

  • Runny nose
  • Cough
  • Pink eye
  • Fever

After a few days, additional symptoms may develop:

  • Flat red rash on the face and body
  • Diarrhea
  • Spots on the inside of the cheek

It may take about a week for symptoms to resolve. After you contract measles, you are immune for the rest of your life.

Prevent Measles with the MMR Vaccine 

Measles is preventable. The measles (MMR) vaccine was invented in 1968 and helped the U.S. achieve eradication. The MMR vaccine is highly effective in protecting against measles, mumps and rubella. 

Another option is the MMRV vaccine, which protects against measles, mumps, rubella and varicella (chickenpox).

Most children receive their first MMR dose when they are 12-15 months old and their second when they are 4-6 years old. Babies may get an MMR dose as early as 6 months if they are traveling internationally

An estimated 90% of unprotected people will contract measles when exposed to the virus. This high transmission rate highlights the importance of prevention with vaccination. 

How Effective Is the MMR Vaccine?

According to the CDC, one dose of the MMR vaccine is 93% effective against measles. Two doses (recommended) is 97% effective.

It’s important to know your family’s vaccination status. Learn about getting vaccinations for the whole family with University Health’s healthyUexpress.

Measles Treatment

While there is no cure for measles, there are ways to manage the symptoms until it clears up.

You can manage measles symptoms with ibuprofen to manage pain and high fever. Your health care provider may prescribe antibiotics if an infection develops as a result of complications. Antibiotics cannot treat measles because it’s a virus.

Check Vaccine Records

Make sure that you and your family are up to date on all recommended vaccinations, especially if you plan to travel internationally. To learn more about getting the whole family vaccinated with University Health’s mobile clinic, please call 210-358-7020.

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