Communicable Disease

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Communicable Disease

Director: Jennifer Johnson


Measles in 2015

One or two people in 1,000 who get measles will develop serious complications. Approximately one out of 1,000 will die. Measles is a highly infectious disease that can cause hearing loss, pneumonia, and swelling of the brain. To keep contagious diseases like measles from gaining a foothold, doctors say communities must achieve “community immunity”, which means 90-95% of people are vaccinated.

Community immunity protects all those who cannot be vaccinated, such as babies who are too young; or people with other conditions which weaken their immune system. Highly infectious measles will infect 90% of unvaccinated individuals.

Measles is a virus that can be spread through the air by droplets, by direct contact with nasal or throat secretions, and less commonly by contact with articles freshly soiled with nose and throat secretions for up to two hours after someone with measles has been there. It starts with symptoms of fever, cough, conjunctivitis (eye infection), Coryza (runny nose), and Koplik spots (white or bluish-white spots in mouth); followed 4 days later by a red blotchy rash that begins on the face, then spreads over the entire body by the 4th-7th day. A person is usually infectious fromone day before symptoms appear until 4 days after rash appears. This makes it especially risky in places like schools and day cares where kids are in close quarters. If you are ill with these symptoms and develop a very red blotchy rash, notify your doctor before arriving at a clinic or hospital. They may want you to enter through a side door, not sit in a waiting room and even wear a mask to prevent spread to others, in case you are a potential measles case.

Unvaccinated students in schools will be required to get immunized or stay at home until an outbreak is over, which can last a minimum of 21 days, but could last longer if there are secondary or tertiary cases after the first. Our school nurses keep a list of unvaccinated students; and all teachers and staff are required to show immunity either through vaccination or blood testing. Generally, between 81-94% of students in Skagit County school districts have received all recommended vaccines.

There are only two things in medicine that have really extended the life of Americans: the first is antibiotics and the second is vaccines. Everyone should take advantage of them. Vaccines are one of mankind’s greatest achievements!

Because Measles was considered eliminated in the US by 2000, many physicians have never seen a case. Measles still kills 17 people per hour globally. When people opt out of standard vaccinations, our protective fence weakens, enabling measles to spread to a greater number of people. So if 1 person has measles, they can infect 12-18 others who aren’t immune. If 1 person infects 18 people and if each of those 18 go on to infect 18 more, we already have 5,832 people infected and 17 may have died. And this with just 3 degrees of separation from the initial case!

What to do:

  • All those who can be immunized for measles, should do so now to protect infants, those who have conditions that prohibit them from vaccinating, as well as those rare people for whom vaccination may not have been effective
  • Check your immunization status either through finding records of disease, vaccination or blood test (Measles IgG titer)
  • If you were born before 1957, you likely had measles disease and have lifelong protection, but a blood test will verify this through your doctor
  • If you were born in 1957 or later, you should have documentation of at least 1 MMR. The 2 dose series of MMR began in 1989
  • If you have only had 1 MMR, you may or may not need a second dose
  • If you are a health care worker, school staff, college student or international traveler, you should have documentation of disease or 2 MMR vaccinations.
  • If you have no documentation of measles immunization or disease, ask your doctor to either blood test or vaccinate

Even 1 preventable death is too many when a low cost, safe and effect