By: Daniel Haight, MD
Tuesday, August 20 2013
Local health authorities are watching Texas closely due to an increase in the number of measles cases reported recently in their state.
This disease causes a rash, fever, aches, cough, runny nose and occasional cases of ear infections, pneumonia (lung infection) and encephalitis (brain swelling, confusion and coma).
Texas was free of this highly infectious disease last year, but this year there are more than a dozen cases already reported.
Much like many other infectious diseases, measles is spread through the air. The best method of protection against contracting this disease is ensuring that you and family members are up to date with immunizations including the MMR vaccine (measles/mumps/rubella). According to the CDC, children should see a pediatrician to be vaccinated. Adults who were born during or after 1957 and have not had measles or been vaccinated are at risk and should get at least one dose of the MMR vaccine. Two doses are recommended for adults who are at higher risk, such as:
- College students
- Those working in a medical facility
- Women of childbearing age
However, pregnant women should wait to get the MMR vaccine until after they have given birth.
The last reported case of measles in Polk County was a young adult who had not received vaccinations as a child. She traveled from the U.S., where people are normally vaccinated against this disease, to Eastern Europe, where very few folks receive vaccinations. Upon her return to her home in Polk County she became so ill that she was hospitalized. Prior to her diagnosis and hospitalization, she exposed an entire doctor’s office waiting room and a child care center to the disease.
Fortunately no further cases developed, due partly to the fact that most people she came into contact with after her return to the U.S. were previously vaccinated.
In the past, there were questions about the vaccine, but careful and constant review shows that these vaccines are protective and safe especially compared to the dangers of the disease they are trying to prevent. No vaccine will protect a person 100 percent of the time, but these vaccines are safe and effective at reducing your risk.