Q. Ive heard about recent measles cases in North Carolina. Our older children are vaccinated against measles, but I am concerned about our 6-month-old daughter, who is too young for the vaccine. Is there anything we can do to protect her?
Measles is a viral infection that causes red, watery eyes, fever of 101 or higher, cough, runny nose and rash. The classic measles rash appears several days after the fever starts. It begins on the head and neck and then spreads to the rest of the body.
Measles is highly contagious. Its passed when a person coughs or sneezes. An infected individual is contagious for four days before and four days after the rash appears.
On April 30, N.C. health officials released a press report announcing 19 measles cases in Stokes, Orange and Polk counties. Most occurred in unvaccinated people.
Before the measles vaccine in the 1960s, there were about 500,000 cases of measles per year in the United States, causing about 400 deaths each year. In more recent years, the number has dropped to about 50 cases per year, thanks to the measles vaccine.
Measles is still widespread in underdeveloped nations. Outbreaks in Europe continue to happen as vaccination rates decline.
Measles is preventable by vaccination; however, the vaccine is not routinely given to children before their first birthday. The best way to protect young children is to ensure the people around them are vaccinated, thereby limiting exposure.
If measles is suspected, then medical care should be sought right away. For more information, visit cdc.gov.