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All About Measles


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by Dr. Brad Burget, internal medicine doctor with INTEGRIS Family Care Central

With the recent rise of people being infected with measles in the United States, how do you know if you're protected? Dr. Brad Burget, an internal medicine physician with INTEGRIS Family Care Central, explains who is susceptible to the illness, how you can prevent infection, and addresses the risks associated with the MMR vaccine.

In the year 2000, measles was considered to be eliminated from the United States. So what's all the fuss about now?

Measles has recently gained greater attention because of an outbreak at a California amusement park with cases of infected individuals on the rise since late 2014. Because measles has largely been eliminated due to the advent of the measles vaccine in the 1960s, many people have questions about this disease.

Typically, measles will present with common viral complaints, and then progress to the second stage of cough, runny nose and red eyes. Finally, the measles rash will arise and starting on the head and spreading down to the trunk and extremities.

It is felt that those infected are contagious approximately four days before the rash appears and extending to four days after.

Measles is felt to be one of the most contagious viruses in the world and some have quoted up to 70 to 90 percent of susceptible people exposed to the measles will become infected. It is spread via respiratory droplets and can remain airborne or on surfaces up to a couple hours after exposure.

Complications can occur, and of the minor, ear infections, croup and diarrhea are some of the most common. More serious complications can also occur and it is estimated that one in 1,000 will die from such complications.

Those at greatest risk are pregnant women, those at the extremes of age, those with poor immune systems and those with poor nutritional status.

So how is measles treated? The best treatment in this case is prevention through vaccination. The measles vaccine was introduced in the 1960s, and since that time, measles in the United States has drastically declined. The American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Academy of Family Physicians, in conjunction with the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, endorse a two-dose vaccination series with the first immunization typically being given at between 12 and 15 months and the second given just prior to school entry, usually between the ages of 4 and 6 years.

Vaccines are one the safest treatments in all of medicine with risks of adverse outcomes being very small. The measles vaccine is now contained within the MMR, or measles, mumps and rubella shot.

Some of the most common reactions that people may have are minor, and may include rash, fever or pain at the injection site. More serious reactions can occur, but are much less likely where rare cases of severe allergic reaction, being in the order of about one in one million doses. Some have reported that the MMR vaccine causes autism. These claims are completely unfounded. To date, there is no scientific evidence to show that the MMR vaccine causes autism, and the original paper that suggested a link between autism and the MMR vaccine was retracted in addition to the lead author of the paper losing his medical license.

There are, however, a few groups of people who should not receive this live virus vaccine, and those include pregnant women, those with weakened immune systems and those with gelatin or neomycin allergies.

If one does acquire the measles, then treatment is largely symptomatic. But the vaccine may be given to prevent infection in someone susceptible to the disease within 72 hours of exposure. Those unable to receive the vaccine may receive IV immunoglobulin, or possibly, vitamin A.

If you would like more information on measles, or MMR vaccine, ask your health care provider or go to the CDC's or AAP's website and type in a keyword search of MMR or measles.

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IOYH - Measles

Listen to Dr. Brad Burget explain what you need to know about Measles.

Doctor Oklahoma Podcast- Episode 3: Vaccines

We answer questions such as how can a vaccine help prevent cervical cancer? Do flu shots have a cumulative effect? How do vaccines work? And more. Tune in and you just might learn something from INTEGRIS Health physician Dr. David de Gaston.