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Measles Outbreak in Pinellas County: How to Stay Protected

POSTED BY: Florida Hospital

Health officials are still investigating the source of three measles cases discovered in Pinellas County. Though the infected individuals are being safely quarantined and cared for at home, the reemergence of this once-eradicated disease is concerning parents and physicians alike.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 107 different cases of measles have been confirmed so far in 2018. The majority of those people were unvaccinated, including the three children in Pinellas County. Since measles is still common in many parts of the world, it’s essential to get children vaccinated as part of their regular immunization schedule.

To learn more about the contraction, symptoms and treatment for measles and learn how you can protect your family against it, we talked to board-certified family physician Gregory E. Baker, MD.

Transmission and Risks

“The measles is spread through respiratory fluids by coughing, sneezing and breathing,” explains Dr. Baker. “The really tricky part is that you’re contagious before you even know you’re sick or have had symptoms. If you have reason to believe that you may have been exposed and you’ve never had the MMR vaccine, you can get a vaccination in the first 72 hours to reduce the severity of the infection, symptoms and recovery time.”

Statistically, as a U.S. citizen, the most likely way to become exposed to the measles virus is to travel abroad. Asia and Europe have the highest rates of the disease and travelers coming from these areas may be carriers for the disease bringing it with them when they vacation in Florida. It is vitally important to get this vaccine either way, but if you’re going to be traveling abroad or working in an industry catering to a clientele from foreign countries, such as hospitality, it’s especially important to get the vaccine for your safety and the safety of those around you.

When administered to infants, the vaccine is 95% effective in preventing measles — which is extremely valuable since measles kills small children and babies at a higher rate than anyone else. One or two in one thousand children will die from the disease which could have been prevented through vaccination.

Hospitals take extreme measures and precautions to be sure that there’s little to no risk of exposure to patients with the measles.

Symptoms and Treatment

Symptoms generally appear a week or two after being exposed to the virus and usually begin with a high fever, coughing, a runny nose and red watery eyes.

Two or three days after you start having symptoms, you may develop small, white spots in your mouth.

Three to five days after you start having symptoms the rash will begin to spread across your body starting with your head, face, and hairline and then spread down your neck to your torso, arms, and legs. When the rash appears, your fever will generally spike to 104° Fahrenheit or higher which is dangerous territory.

Unfortunately, there is no cure for the measles except time. Treatment is generally supportive care, like what you’d get with the flu or a cold. You should stay well hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids, stay indoors, eat well when you’re feeling up to it, take fever-reducing painkillers such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen, and get plenty of rest.

Start to finish, you’ll likely experience a very unpleasant eight to fourteen days of illness.

Where to Go and Who to Call

In 2000, measles was deemed officially eradicated in the United States by the CDC. Unfortunately, a decline in childhood vaccinations based on misinformation allowed some diseases to reemerge in our population. 

If you or a loved one has never been vaccinated against the measles or other diseases, please visit our website to find an urgent care location near you, or call us at 844-876-0241 to schedule an appointment.

If you believe you may have been exposed to the measles virus or are currently sick with the measles, please contact your doctor immediately and stay at home for at least four days after the rash has developed to avoid exposing others.