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Measles: What You Need to Know

May 08, 2019

Measles

Incidents of measles have greatly increased in 2019. In fact, according to the CDC, 22 states have reported measles cases. 5 states have measles outbreaks (defined as 3 or more cases). An extensive handwashing program and good disinfection program is the best way to stop the spread of any disease, including measles.  

Also, educating your staff about the disease is very important. Knowledge is power! Below is a list of frequently asked questions so you can better understand measles and take measures to keep everyone healthy.

What are measles? Measles is caused by a single-stranded enveloped virus. Humans are the only natural hosts of the measles virus.

What illness does the measles virus cause? Measles is an acute viral respiratory illness. It causes a high fever (up to 105° F), cough, nasal congestion, and conjunctivitis (inflammation of transparent covering of the eye), followed by a rash that appears as a flat, red area with small bumps. The rash usually appears 14 days after a person is exposed and can spread all over the body. Patients are considered to be contagious from 4 days before to 4 days after the rash appears. Some high-risk patients do not develop the rash.

How does measles spread? Measles is one of the most contagious of all infectious diseases. Up to 9 out of 10 susceptible persons with close contact to a measles patient will develop measles. The virus is spread by direct contact with infectious droplets or by airborne spread when an infected person breathes, coughs, or sneezes. Measles virus can remain infectious in the air for up to two hours after the infected person leaves the area.

Who is at high risk for contracting measles? Anyone born after 1957 who has not been vaccinated is at a high risk for contracting measles. Infants and children younger than 5 years old, adults over the age of 20, pregnant women, and people with compromised immune systems are at a high risk for having complications from measles.

What are common complications from measles? Pneumonia, bronchitis, and diarrhea are common complications.

  • One out of every 1,000 measles cases will develop acute encephalitis, often resulting in permanent brain damage.
  • One or two out of every 1,000 children who become infected with measles will die from respiratory or neurological complications.

How can I prevent getting the measles? There is only one sure way to prevent contracting measles, and that is through vaccination. The vaccine is usually given as a combination MMR vaccine (Measles, Mumps and Rubella). The MMRV vaccine can be used for children aged 12 months through 12 years for protection against measles, mumps, rubella, and varicella (chicken pox). One dose of MMR vaccine is approximately 93% effective at preventing measles. Two doses are approximately 97% effective.

What can I do if there has been a confirmed or suspected case of measles in my facility? Whoever has a confirmed or suspected case of measles should stay home for four days after developing the rash. Ask your doctor when it is safe to be around other people again.

Good practices to stop the spread of any disease:

  • Cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze and put used tissues in the trashcan. If you do not have a tissue, cough and sneeze into your upper sleeve or elbow, not your hands.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water.
  • Avoid sharing drinks or food utensils.
  • Disinfect frequently touched surfaces, such as toys, doorknobs, tables, and counters. Standard disinfectants will readily kill the measles virus.

Why have we seen such an increase in measles? I thought the disease was eradicated in the US? Measles is still common in many parts of the world, including some countries in Europe, Asia, the Pacific, and Africa. Travelers with measles continue to bring the disease into the US. Measles spread when these travelers visit US communities with pockets of unvaccinated people. As of April 26th, 22 states have reported measles cases.

Betco has a complete line of skin care products and programs to encourage frequent handwashing and also has numerous disinfectants that help reduce disease transmission.

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