The United States is experiencing a record number of measles cases, with California leading the states in the number of individuals confirmed to have had the disease. While some community members don’t perceive measles as serious, health care providers and agencies encourage everyone to consider the ugly facts about the disease — and vaccinate.
Measles is Highly Contagious
Measles is a highly contagious virus that lives in the nose and throat mucus of an infected person. It’s easily spread through coughing and sneezing. The virus can live up to two hours on a surface or in an airspace where an infected person coughed or sneezed. In other words, even after an infected person leaves a room, an unvaccinated individual could get measles as a result of breathing the contaminated air or touching the infected surface. In fact, 90 percent of unvaccinated individuals in close proximity to a person with measles will become infected.
Measles is Not Simply a Rash
Measles do carry complications, from mild to severe. The most common complications are diarrhea and ear infections, which can result in permanent hearing loss. Severe complications include pneumonia, the most common cause of death from measles in young children, and encephalitis (swelling of the brain) that can lead to convulsions and leave a child with hearing loss and cognitive delays.
There is no treatment for measles. Vaccination is the best protection against the disease. Please talk to your health care provider about the importance of vaccinations for you, your child, and your community.