"There is a small but growing number of people choosing not to
vaccinate their children. I want to stress the importance of
vaccinations, as they are the best defense against illnesses, like
measles, which in severe cases can lead to death," said Dr. Damon T.
Arnold, director of the Illinois Department of Public Health.
Measles is very infectious and is often misdiagnosed, particularly
when many physicians have had little experience diagnosing and
recognizing the disease. Measles itself is unpleasant, but the
complications are dangerous. Of the people who get the disease, 6
percent to 20 percent will get an ear infection, diarrhea or even
pneumonia. In some rare cases, a person may suffer encephalitis, an
inflammation of the brain.
Measles should be suspected in any patient with a fever, rash and
the three "C's" -- cough, coryza or runny nose, and conjunctivitis
or red, runny eyes. Patients suspected of having measles should
contact their physician for further evaluation and testing -- which
should be done prior to visiting the doctor, to help prevent the
spread of disease. Measles cases should be reported to a local
health department as soon as possible -- within 24 hours.
Although measles is no longer a prevalent disease in the United
States, it is in most countries of the world, including some
countries in Europe. Worldwide, 20 million cases of measles still
occur each year, and the disease is a significant cause of
vaccine-preventable death among children. As of May 23, the Centers
for Disease Control and Prevention had confirmed 103 cases
nationwide, which is the highest number of cases for the same time
period since 2001.
The 2008 upsurge in measles cases serves as a reminder that
measles can still be imported into the United States and result in
outbreaks unless population immunity remains high through
vaccination. Many cases are related to travel to areas in Europe
that have also seen an increase in measles activity.
Health care providers should advise patients who travel abroad of
the importance of measles vaccination and should consider the
diagnosis of measles for people who have traveled abroad recently or
have had contact with travelers. Diagnosis of measles should also be
considered in people who experience an illness with fever and rash
and have not been adequately vaccinated. Since 1993, the largest
outbreaks of measles in the United States have occurred in
populations that refuse vaccination for religious or personal belief
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Children and adults should be up to date with their
immunizations, since measles is preventable by vaccination. If you
or anyone in your family does not have documented immunity against
measles, contact your physician for appropriate vaccinations.
All children should receive two doses of MMR vaccine. The measles
vaccine is administered as MMR, a combination vaccine that provides
protection against measles, mumps and rubella. The first dose is
recommended at 12-15 months of age and the second dose at 4-6 years
of age. The MMR vaccine is strongly endorsed by medical and public
health experts as safe and effective.
All adults born during or after 1957 should receive at least one
dose of vaccine unless they have documented evidence of measles
immunity (a blood test or a physician's documented diagnosis of
measles). Two doses are recommended for all international travelers,
health care personnel, and students at secondary and postsecondary
educational facilities. Infants 6-11 months of age should receive
one dose prior to travel abroad.
If you or anyone in your family exhibits the symptoms of measles,
contact your physician or local health department for further
evaluation and information prior to visiting, to prevent potential
spread of disease.
To report a case of measles, contact your local health department
as soon as possible.
Further information regarding measles can be accessed at
Department of Public Health
file received from
Illinois Office of
Communication and Information]