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You may have heard a lot about measles on the news or social media lately. Many news agencies are reporting on measles because children and adults in the United States are contracting the disease at a much higher rate than usual.

Fortunately, there are many ways you and your family can avoid measles. Here are some key facts about measles you need to know to protect yourself and your family:

What is measles?

Measles is a very contagious respiratory disease that is caused by a virus. The virus lives in the nose and throat mucus of an infected person and can spread to others through coughing and sneezing. The measles virus can stay in the air or on a surface for up to 2 hours after an infected person coughed or sneezed in the area.

People of all ages may contract measles and it can be especially dangerous for babies and young children.

How common is measles in the U.S.?

In 2000, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) declared measles was eradicated from the United States. Unfortunately, measles has since made a comeback. In 2019 (through July 11) 1,123 measles cases have been reported to the CDC in 28 states throughout the U.S. This is the highest number of annual cases the U.S. has had since 1994.

Most people who have contracted measles in the U.S. in the past year were unvaccinated. Many of these people were exposed to measles by American and international travelers bringing it into the U.S. from other countries. Once measles infects an unvaccinated person, it is very easy for it to spread quickly to other people who are also unvaccinated.

What are the symptoms of measles?

Measles symptoms normally appear 7-14 days after contact with the virus. One of the first signs of measles is a high fever. Other early symptoms of measles include a cough, runny nose, and red, watery eyes. After the first couple days of being sick, a person will develop other symptoms, including:

  • White spots. These spots appear in the mouth 2-3 days after symptoms begin.
  • A rash. A flat, red rash will appear 3-5 days after symptoms begin. This rash usually starts on the face and then spreads down the body to the neck, chest, and arms.

How to prevent measles

The best way to prevent measles is with a vaccine. The measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine will protect children, teenagers, and adults from measles and other similar diseases. This vaccine is safe and up to 97% effective at preventing measles.

The CDC’s immunization schedule states that most children should get their first MMR vaccination when they are between 12-15 months old. Children who are traveling to other countries may need to be vaccinated sooner. It is important to speak with your primary care doctor to learn more about the vaccinations you and your children should have.

What to do if you suspect measles

If you think you or your child has measles, you should visit your primary care doctor as soon as possible. Because measles may lead to brain swelling or death, it’s important that you or your child receive treatment quickly. Your doctor will be able to determine exactly what is wrong and help you or your child get the best treatment.

At your appointment, your doctor may ask you about symptoms, how long the symptoms have been present, and any recent travel. Additionally, the doctor may draw blood to run a measles test or recommend an MMR vaccine. This vaccine can be an effective treatment if given within 72 hours of exposure to the measles virus.

At AppleCare, there’s no need to schedule an appointment if you have symptoms of measles. You can just walk in to any of our convenient AppleCare Urgent Care Clinics that are open days, nights, and weekends. Our friendly staff will ensure you get the best treatment as quickly as possible.