Disease & Illness

There’s A Measles Outbreak Sweeping The Country—Here’s What You Need To Know

The highly contagious disease has spread to 21 states so far. Here's what you need to know.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is reporting that more than 100 cases of measles have been diagnosed so far this year in 21 states and the District of Columbia.

The CDC says that from Jan. 1–July 14, a total of 107 people living in the following states were diagnosed with the virus: Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Missouri, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Washington and the District of Columbia.

While the CDC says that the majority of those diagnosed were unvaccinated, measles is contagious and spreads through the air via coughing and sneezing. Symptoms include high fever, a body rash, stuffy nose and reddened eyes. Without treatment, symptoms typically disappear within two or three weeks, but one or two out of every 1,000 children will die from complications.

CDC

In contrast, in 2017, 118 people in 15 states and the District of Columbia were reported to have measles and 2014 ended up being a record year for the virus, with 667 cases from 27 states reported to the CDC. That year, 338 of those cases were connected to a single large outbreak in Ohio’s Amish communities, but the year marked the greatest number of cases since measles were documented as eliminated in the U.S. in 2000.

In January of this year, it was reported that a passenger with measles may have exposed fellow travelers at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport. According to the CDC, measles is still common in many parts of the world, including some countries in Europe, Asia, the Pacific and Africa, and travelers with measles continue to bring the infection into the U.S.

How To Protect Yourself And Your Children

The CDC says the best protection against measles is the MMR vaccine. Before the measles vaccination program started in 1963, an estimated three to four million people got measles each year in the United States. The CDC says that everyone who is able should get the vaccine, including international travelers. Because measles is so contagious, if one person has the disease, 90 percent of the people close to that person will also become infected if they are not immune.

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If you or your child have been exposed to someone with measles and are unvaccinated, the CDC says you should call your doctor right away to inform them. Also, be sure to stay away from susceptible people, like those at schools and hospitals.