OKLAHOMA CITY – Nearly two decades after measles was said to be eliminated in the United States, health officials in Oklahoma County are urging parents to make sure that their children are up-to-date on their vaccinations.
According to NPR, at least 704 cases of the measles have been reported in 22 states. Health officials say that is the highest number of patients the United States has seen in 25 years.
Officials say most of the cases involve children who were not vaccinated.
The Oklahoma City-County Health Department is recommending that parents make sure their children are current on the measles, mumps and rubella vaccination.
“MMR shots are available through your doctor and through the Oklahoma City-County Health Department’s Vaccines for Children (VFC) program. There is no cost for vaccines when clients are 18 years and under if they qualify for VFC vaccines. The qualifiers are no insurance, underinsured (have insurance but doesn’t cover vaccines), Medicaid, or Medicaid eligible, Alaskan Native or Native American,” said OCCHD Clinical Services Manager Kerri Stewart.
Measles is characterized by a rash of flat red spots. Other symptoms may include fever, cough, runny nose and watery eyes.
Complications, which are more likely in patients younger than 5 and older than 20, can include ear infections with permanent hearing loss, diarrhea, pneumonia and swelling of the brain. Pregnant women who get measles are at risk of premature delivery and having a low-birth-weight baby.
One or two out of every 1,000 people who get measles will die from the disease, according to the CDC, although there has not been a death from the illness in the United States since 2015.
A person can spread the illness four days before and four days after developing the rash and therefore may unknowingly spread it. The virus can be airborne and spreads when an infected person coughs or sneezes.
“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,” according to the CDC.
A person who has had measles or has been inoculated is immune. Two doses of the measles, mumps and rubella or MMR vaccine are recommended. The CDC advises that the first dose be given to children when they are between 12 and 15 months old and the second when they are between 4 and 6 years old, though it can be given as early as 28 days after the first dose.
One dose is 93% effective at preventing the illness, and two doses are 97% effective.