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Health Officials Urge Measles Protection

Contact: James McCurtis Jr. (517) 241-2112
Agency: Community Health, Department of

June 22, 2011                    

Health Officials Urge Measles Protection

LANSING - The Michigan Department of Community Health (MDCH) is advising Michigan residents to get the measles vaccine now that there are more cases of the highly contagious disease reported in the country this year than any time since 1996.

"This is especially important for persons planning international travel, because the current U.S. situation is largely the result of measles outbreaks occurring elsewhere in the world," said Dean Sienko, M.D., M.S., Acting Chief Medical Executive, MDCH. "But it's also important that non-travelers be protected. We have to keep our guard up against measles by having as many of our citizens protected as possible.  This is an easily preventable disease." 

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there have been more than 150 cases reported so far.  In a typical year, there are about 50 cases. Cases have appeared in more than 20 states, and in some instances outbreaks have resulted. So far, there has been one case in Michigan.

Measles is very easily transmitted.  The virus spreads to others when an infected person sneezes or coughs.  A person is contagious before the characteristic rash appears.  It can spread through very casual and brief contact.  But this year health officials are especially worried.  They have been tracking large outbreaks of measles in several European countries as well as parts of Africa and Asia.  Most of the cases in the U.S. have been traced to travel or other connections in those areas.   Since summer is a traditional travel season, officials say there are more opportunities for measles virus to be brought into the U.S.

Symptoms include a high fever, eye inflammation, a cough, and a runny nose, followed by an extensive rash.  It takes about two weeks for symptoms to develop, and the ill person can spread the measles virus to others from  four days before the rash appears to four days after.  Some people can get much sicker from measles and may be hospitalized with pneumonia or, rarely, encephalitis. 

All children routinely are vaccinated against the disease, receiving two doses by the time they start kindergarten.  However, some may miss or delay measles vaccination.  Adults must be sure they are vaccinated, also.

General information on measles and measles vaccine is available at http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vpd-vac/measles.

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