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Health Department urges people to get their children vaccinated for measles

On Monday, the Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) joined other health authorities in reminding parents to make sure their children are up to date with their measles vaccinations.

Cases of measles are rising in the United States with cases being detected in adjacent states. Measles is a serious and highly contagious disease that at one time appeared to be a thing of the past in the United States due to vaccination efforts. Unfortunately, measles cases are climbing globally and unfettered mass migration has brought measles and other diseases back into this country. In 2024 there were 41 documented cases of measles in the United States – there were only 58 in all of 2023. As of February 29, 2024, a total of 41 measles cases were reported by 16 jurisdictions: Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, New York City, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Washington. There were 1,274 cases in 2019.

Unvaccinated people have a 90 percent chance of becoming infected if exposed, and infected people can contract measles up to three weeks after exposure.

Measles is a serious viral respiratory illness that lives in the nose and throat of infected people. It spreads when people breathe in or have contact with virus-infected fluid and can pass through droplets sprayed into the air when someone with measles sneezes or coughs.

Symptoms usually appear 7-14 days after being around a person with measles. Measles virus particles can remain in the air in a room for up to two hours.

ADPH Chief Medical Officer Dr. Karen Landers said, "One of the main messages we want to emphasize is that measles follows a pattern where the child first develops fever, cough, runny nose, and watery/red eyes, followed by the development of a classic appearing rash that starts as flat red spots on the face and spreads downward to the neck, trunk, arms, legs and feet. Persons can start spreading measles up to four days before rash onset, and those with weak immune systems can spread the measles virus longer."

For most children, measles protection is part of the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine (MMR), or measles-mumps-rubella-varicella vaccine, given when children are 12 to 15 months old and again when they are 4 to 6 years old. The first vaccine can be given to babies as young as 6 months of age if they will be traveling internationally or in outbreak settings. Vaccines are available at pediatricians' offices, family physicians' offices, or county health departments. The risk of MMR vaccine causing serious harm is extremely small. Getting the MMR vaccine is much safer than getting the measles disease.

Parents should call a doctor immediately if they believe their child has measles or if their child has been around someone who has measles, especially if their child is an infant, has not received two doses of the measles vaccine, or is immunocompromised.

Many Americans are reluctant to vaccinate their children over concerns about other vaccines, including the COVID-19 vaccine. Contact your doctor or county health department if your child needs a recommended vaccination.

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