Update: Measles Symptoms and Prevention

Information from Dr. Sandra Kesh, infectious diseases specialist:
As of March 1, measles has infected over 150 people in the U.S. The majority of these cases were linked to a large outbreak in Disneyland, but smaller outbreaks have been reported in Illinois and other states. So far this year, there have been 3 confirmed measles cases in New York, including a Bard College student who traveled on an Amtrak train with stops in Westchester, as well as 2 additional cases in New York City.  There were 644 measles cases nationwide last year, up from 187 in 2013 and 55 in 2012, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).  

Disease symptoms usually begin 10 to 12 days after exposure, but can occur as late as 18 days later. The disease usually begins with runny nose, cough and fever, which can rise to as high as 103° to 105° F.  A red blotchy rash then develops several days into the illness, and usually starts on the face before spreading downward and outward to the hands and feet. Complications are common and include ear infections and pneumonia.  For every 1,000 children who get measles, 1 or 2 will die, says the CDC.

The disease is preventable with the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine, which is a highly effective and safe vaccine. There is no proven link between the MMR vaccine and autism, and the past study that suggested a possible connection has since been discredited.  

Individuals are not at risk of contracting measles if they are immune. A person is considered immune if he/she has received two doses of the MMR vaccine OR if his/her birthdate was before January 1, 1957, OR have a history of laboratory-confirmed measles, OR have a blood test confirming immunity.  

Anyone who is not immune to measles or not sure of their measles immunity should contact their primary care physician if they develop fever or any other symptoms suggestive of measles.   Individuals should call their healthcare provider or a local emergency room before going for care. This will help to prevent others at these facilities from being exposed to the illness.