Measles

An ongoing measles outbreak in central Ohio that includes Columbus and the immediate vicinity has affected portions of the Miami Valley and surrounding area. 

A total of 85 cases of measles have been reported by city of Columbus Public Health Department since the outbreak began in mid-October, 2022. Of those 85 cases, 36 have been hospitalized.

Clark County Combined Health District has confirmed one case of measles, and it was connected to the central Ohio outbreak. 

Of the 82 cases reported by Columbus Public Health thus far, 74 have been among unvaccinated individuals. Four of the measles cases were reported among individuals with one of the two recommended doses of the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine, and four others were reported in individuals whose vaccination status was not known.

Two-dose MMR vaccines are recommended for children beginning at ages 12-15 months, with a second dose recommended between ages 4-6. 

Over 30 percent of the measles cases reported by Columbus Public Health have occurred in children too young to receive a first MMR shot, which underscores the need for vaccine-eligible children and adults to get both doses of MMR vaccine.

Measles is extremely contagious but highly preventable with vaccination. MMR vaccines are demonstrated 93% effective against measles after one dose and 97% effective after the second dose.

Unvaccinated individuals are at risk of infection and severe disease.  With the risk for community spread, parents are encouraged to make sure their children are up to date on all childhood immunizations, including the MMR vaccine. Ninety percent of unvaccinated individuals who are exposed to measles will become infected.

About one in five people who get measles will be hospitalized with symptoms including pneumonia, dehydration, or brain swelling.

The measles vaccine is safe and effective with hundreds of millions of doses given safely over the last 50 years. MMR vaccines are available at most pediatricians’ offices as well CCCHD. Call (937) 390-5600 for an appointment.

Measles can be serious

Measles is very contagious and can be serious. An unvaccinated child can get measles when traveling abroad or even in the U.S. Two doses of MMR vaccine provide the best protection against measles for your child.

Some people think of measles as just a little rash and fever that clears up in a few days, but measles can cause serious health complications, especially in children younger than 5 years of age.

There is no way to tell in advance the severity of the symptoms your child will experience, but here are some facts:

  • About 1 in 5 people in the U.S. who get measles will be hospitalized
  • 1 out of every 1,000 people with measles will develop brain swelling, which could lead to brain damage
  • 1 to 3 out of 1,000 people with measles will die, even with the best care

Some of the more common measles symptoms include:

  • high fever (may spike to more than 104° F)
  • cough
  • runny nose
  • red, watery eyes
  • rash (3-5 days after symptoms begin)

Measles is very contagious

Measles spreads through the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes. It is so contagious that if one person has it, up to 9 out of 10 people around him or her will also become infected if they are not protected. Your child can get measles just by being in a room where a person with measles has been, even up to two hours after that person has left. An infected person can spread measles to others even before knowing he/she has the disease—from four days before developing the measles rash through four days afterward.

 

 

Your child can still get measles in the United States

Measles was declared eliminated from the U.S. in 2000 thanks to a highly effective vaccination program. Eliminated means that the disease is no longer constantly present in this country. However, measles is still common in many parts of the world.

Even if your family does not travel internationally, you could come into contact with measles anywhere in your community. Every year, measles is brought into the United States by unvaccinated travelers (mostly Americans and sometimes foreign visitors) who get measles while they are in other countries. Anyone who is not protected against measles is at risk.

You have the power to protect your child against measles with a safe and effective vaccine

The best protection against measles is measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine. MMR vaccine provides long-lasting protection against all strains of measles.

Your child needs two doses of MMR vaccine for best protection:

  • The first dose at 12 through 15 months of age
  • The second dose at 4 through 6 years of age

If your family is traveling overseas, the vaccine recommendations are a little different:

  • If your baby is 6 through 11 months old, he or she should receive 1 dose of MMR vaccine before leaving.
  • If your child is 12 months of age or older, he or she will need 2 doses of MMR vaccine (separated by at least 28 days) before departure.

Another vaccine, the measles-mumps-rubella-varicella (MMRV) vaccine, which protects against 4 diseases, is also available to children 12 months through 12 years of age.

Measles is a highly contagious virus that lives in the nose and throat mucus of an infected person. It can spread to others through coughing and sneezing.

If other people breathe the contaminated air or touch the infected surface, then touch their eyes, noses, or mouths, they can become infected.

Animals do not get or spread measles.

Measles is one of the most contagious diseases. Call your healthcare provider immediately if you think you or your child have been exposed.

Measles is so contagious that if one person has it, up to 90% of the people close to that person who are not immune will also become infected.

Infected people can spread measles to others from four days before through four days after the rash appears.

Measles virus can live for up to two hours in an airspace after an infected person leaves an area.

A total of 118 cases of measles were reported nationwide in 2022, according to the CDC. It is the highest number of measles cases reported in the U.S. since 2019 — in 2020 and 2021 combined, there were a total of 52 measles cases reported in the U.S.

In a given year, more measles cases can occur for any of the following reasons:

  • an increase in the number of travelers who get measles abroad and bring it into the U.S., and/or
  • further spread of measles in U.S. communities with pockets of unvaccinated people.

Measles can be serious. Children younger than 5 years of age and adults older than 20 years of age are more likely to suffer from complications. Common complications are ear infections and diarrhea. Serious complications include pneumonia and encephalitis.

Measles can be serious in all age groups. However, there are several groups that are more likely to suffer from measles complications:

  • Children younger than 5 years of age
  • Adults older than 20 years of age
  • Pregnant women
  • People with compromised immune systems, such as from leukemia or HIV infection

Common complications include:

  • Ear infections occur in about one out of every 10 children with measles.
  • Diarrhea is reported in less than one out of 10 people with measles.

Severe complications in children and adults include:

Some people may suffer from severe complications, such as pneumonia (infection of the lungs) and encephalitis (swelling of the brain). They may need to be hospitalized and could die.

Long-term complications include:

Subacute sclerosing panencephalitis (SSPE) is a very rare, but fatal disease of the central nervous system that results from a measles virus infection acquired earlier in life.

  • SSPE generally develops 7 to 10 years after a person has measles, even though the person seems to have fully recovered from the illness.
  • Since measles was eliminated in 2000, SSPE is rarely reported in the United States.
  • Among people who contracted measles during the resurgence in the United States in 1989 to 1991, 7 to 11 out of every 100,000 were estimated to be at risk for developing SSPE.
  • The risk of developing SSPE may be higher for a person who gets measles before they are 2 years of age.