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MD mama

What you need to know about measles

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Adapted from the MD Mama blog on Boston.com.

If you happened to go shopping at Trader Joe’s in Framingham Feb. 15-16, you might have been exposed to measles.

These kinds of alerts are becoming increasingly common; according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 189 people had measles in 2013. It’s the second highest number of cases since the disease was eliminated in this country in 2000.

Continue reading below

So whether or not you visit a place that has been linked to a confirmed case of measles, it’s good to know the facts about the disease:

It’s really contagious. If you aren’t immune (from vaccination or having had measles) and you are exposed, you have a 90 percent chance of getting measles.

It’s spread by droplets from coughs and sneezes. The virus can live in droplets on surfaces for up to 2 hours. So if an infected person sneezes on their hands and then touches a doorknob (or a package of cookies) and you touch that doorknob (or that package of cookies) you could be exposed, too.

People are contagious for four days
before the rash appears
. That’s the problem with so many infections: you can spread them before you know you are spreading them.

The first signs of measles are the 3 Cs: cough, conjunctivitis (pinkeye), and coryza (runny nose). There may be fever, too. All of which could be caused by lots of common viruses that aren’t measles. If you or your child has the symptoms, don’t ignore them. Call your doctor.

The rash comes next, starting on the face and moving down. The rash is red or reddish-brown spots, and it spreads all over the body.

There is no treatment for measles. All we do is what we call “supportive care,” like fluids, medications for fever, and rest. We also watch for and treat complications. One in 10 people may also get an ear infection, 1 in 20 may get pneumonia, 1 in 1,000 may get encephalitis and 1 or 2 out of 1,000 may die.

Immunization works. We give two doses starting at 12-15 months (the second is usually given at age 3 or 4 but we can give it sooner — we can give the first dose sooner, too, if needed). Adults may need booster doses so check with your doctor to find out. The MMR vaccine does not cause autism.

To learn more about measles and the measles vaccine, visit www.cdc.gov/measles.

Read more of this blog at www.boston.com/mdmama.
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