Bethesda, MD (March 6, 2023)—With recent cases reported in Kentucky and other states, concern about the spread of measles has prompted public health experts to urge parents to make sure their children are up to date on recommended measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccination.
“Measles is not just a rash, runny nose, or fever—measles can affect the brain and lungs, and can be very serious,” said Patricia (Patsy) A. Stinchfield, RN, MS, CPNP, president of the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases (NFID). “The good news is that measles is easy to prevent with safe and effective vaccines. Getting two doses of MMR vaccine results in 97 percent protection, providing lifelong immunity.”
In 2000, measles was declared eliminated in the US; however, measles cases and outbreaks still occur every year in the US because measles is still commonly transmitted in many parts of the world. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently reported an increase in measles cases from 49 in 2021 to 121 in 2022, all among children who were not fully vaccinated, including outbreaks in Minnesota and Ohio. CDC is warning that an estimated 20,000 people who attended a religious gathering in Kentucky on February 17-18, 2023 may have been exposed to an unvaccinated person who had a confirmed case of measles.
Measles is so contagious that if an individual has measles, 9 out of 10 of their close contacts who are not immune will also become infected. CDC recommends that anyone who attended the gathering and is not fully vaccinated should quarantine for 21 days after exposure and monitor for symptoms to prevent spreading measles to others.
Symptoms of measles include rash, cough, runny nose, eye irritation, and fever. Measles can result in severe, sometimes permanent, complications including pneumonia, seizures (jerking and staring), brain damage, and death:
- About 1 in 5 unvaccinated people in the US who get measles will be hospitalized
- 1 out of every 1,000 people with measles will develop brain swelling (encephalitis), which often leads to permanent brain damage
- 1-3 out of 1,000 people with measles will die, even with the best care“No one should have to suffer from measles,” said NFID Medical Director William Schaffner, MD. “We have had a safe and effective measles vaccine for more than 40 years in the US.”
NFID experts are available to talk about measles, the recent increase in cases, and the importance of measles vaccination as recommended. Stinchfield was also the lead author of a March 2020 NFID report on Vitamin A for the Management of Measles in the United States.
About the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases
Founded in 1973, the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases (NFID) is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to educating and engaging the public, communities, and healthcare professionals about infectious diseases across the lifespan. Visit www.nfid.org/measles for more information.
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