A Case of the Measles

If unvaccinated, you’re at risk too.

The recent rise in measles cases traces back to a popular amusement park in California that is an international tourist attraction. Nearly every year the virus returns to the U.S. via unvaccinated travelers (foreign or American), who then spread measles to other unprotected individuals. Recent years have seen an increase in the number of cases in the U.S. (644 were reported in 2014) due to outbreaks in other countries and exposure of the virus to groups of unvaccinated people.

Hearing news of a measles outbreak can be unsettling. You may wonder how effective the vaccine is or if there could be a measles outbreak in your own community.  Belleville Fit Body Bootcamp believes it’s important to know the symptoms and complications of this virus and how it spreads.

Why to Get Vaccinated

In the early 1900s, 6,000 people died each year in the U.S. alone from the measles. In the decade leading up to 1963, when the vaccine was introduced, up to 4 million Americans were infected each year and of these, an average of 500 people died, almost 50,000 were hospitalized, and 4,000 suffered from encephalitis (swelling of the brain). In the year 2000, the measles virus was eliminated in the U.S. due to the MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccination program.

School-aged children who’ve received the recommended two doses of the MMR vaccine and most adults and preschool-aged children who’ve received one dose are considered 93–97 percent protected from the virus. Only three out of 100 vaccinated people will contract the virus if exposed, but these individuals will experience a milder illness that is less contagious.

In the past 15 years, an increasing number of parents have chosen not to give their children an MMR vaccine due to the fear it’s somehow connected to autism, though numerous scientific studies have proven the vaccine to be safe and unrelated. The rise in the number of unvaccinated people increases the country’s risk of continued and more widespread outbreaks.

How It Looks

The measles virus typically begins with respiratory symptoms including cough, sore throat, runny nose, a high fever, and red, watery eyes. Two to three days later small white spots (Koplik’s spots) may be seen in the mouth. A day or two later the fever spikes and a rash that looks like flat, red spots appears on the face and spreads to the neck, chest, back, arms, legs, and feet until it covers the entire body. Sometimes the rash includes small raised bumps as well as the flat spots. A personal trainer in Belleville says that the fever goes down and the rash slowly fades in a few days.

Why It’s Dangerous

Thirty percent of measles cases develop complications. School-aged children and teens are less likely to develop complications but are still at risk. The most common problems associated with measles include ear infections and diarrhea, but 1 in 20 children with measles develops pneumonia (a lung infection) and 1 in a 1,000 is at risk for encephalitis (swelling of the brain that can cause convulsions, deafness, or mental illness). A rare neurological disease called subacute sclerosing panencephalitis (SSPE) is also connected to childhood measles.

How It Passes

Since the virus lives in an infected person’s throat and nose, it’s easily spread from person to person through coughing and sneezing. A person is considered contagious four days before and four days after a rash develops. You can become sick by simply breathing infected air or touching contaminated surfaces and then touching your mouth, nose, or eyes. Because of the ease with which it travels, Belleville Fit Body Boot Camp discovered that an overwhelming 90 percent unvaccinated people who come in contact with measles will get sick.

Deadly Serious. Across the world each year, 20 million people are infected with measles and 146,000 people die from it. That is 17 people who die from measles every hour.

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