Measles vaccination encouraged

Published 7:14 pm Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Fifteen years ago, measles was officially declared eliminated in the United States.

That is apparently not the case in 2015.

In light of the multi-state measles outbreak linked to Disneyland in California, public health experts with the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services are encouraging preventive measures and reminding everyone that vaccination is the best way to protect yourself and your loved ones against measles.

The National Center for Disease Control has reported that, from Jan. 1 to Jan. 30 of this year, 102 people from 14 states were reported as having measles – about twice as many cases as in all of 2012. North Carolina has no reported cases of measles in 2015.

“Measles remains endemic in many countries around the world, which means the importation of measles virus into the United States will continue to occur,” said Interim State Health Director Robin Cummings, M.D. “Measles is one of the most highly contagious diseases there is and it spreads quickly in children and adults who are not vaccinated.”

Measles is a respiratory disease that is spread through the air by coughing and sneezing. It also can be transmitted through contact with secretions from the nose or mouth of an infected person. Initial symptoms may include fever, runny nose, watery red eyes and cough, and is followed by a rash that can spread over the entire body.

Measles can lead to pneumonia and other complications, especially in young children and adults over 20. The disease also poses serious risks for pregnant women, including miscarriage and premature birth.

Measles can be prevented by the combination MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine. Public health experts recommend all children receive two doses of MMR vaccine, with the first dose beginning at 12 months of age and a booster at four to six years of age. North Carolina law requires all individuals to be immunized with two doses of MMR vaccine prior to school entry.

Adults born in 1957 or later who have not already been vaccinated should get at least one dose of MMR vaccine. This is especially important for people who will be traveling internationally.

In 2014, North Carolina had one reported measles case in an unvaccinated traveler who became ill after returning from overseas. In 2013, there were 22 reported cases that occurred when an unvaccinated traveler developed measles after returning from India to a community with a low vaccination rate.

“Vaccines are among the most successful and cost-effective public health tools available for preventing disease and death,” said Dr. Cummings. “The MMR vaccine is highly effective, safe and readily available, and we hope this multi-state outbreak will encourage everyone who has not been vaccinated to contact their primary health care provider or local health department.”

R-C area citizens are urged to contact the public health departments in their county of residence – Bertie (252-794-5322), Gates (252-357-1380), Hertford (252-358-7833) or Northampton (252-534-5841) – for more information.