Though declared eliminated in 2000, measles (also known as rubeola, 10-day measles, and red measles) has made a resurgence in the U.S. Since January 1, 2019, 839 individual cases have been reported in 23 states, making this the greatest number of recorded incidences since 1994.
A highly contagious viral disease – transmitted through mouth, nose, and throat secretions – measles is often fatal in young children and individuals with compromised immune systems. There is no specific treatment for measles and symptoms can last for several weeks.
Measles is contagious for 4 days before symptoms appear and up to 4 days after the rash has subsided. 9 out of 10 unvaccinated people who come in contact with the measles virus will catch it. Symptoms include:
- High fever – often above 104°F
- Hacking cough
- Runny nose
- Red, watery eyes
- Koplik’s spots – small, red or white spots in the mouth
- Exanthem – red, flat or raised spots forming a rash all over the body
Diagnosis and Testing
Measles is diagnosed by its symptoms and telltale mouth lesions and body rash, though many doctors have never seen an actual case. A test is often used for confirmation that a rash is actually measles and can be administered several ways:
- Blood draw
- Nose or throat swab
- Nasal aspiration
- Spinal tap
A titer test may be administered to check for measles immunity by detecting virus antibodies in the blood.
Since the 1960s, measles has been prevented by two doses of a safe, inexpensive vaccine given to children before their 6th birthday. The current outbreak is the result of one infected person, traveling from New York to Detroit, coming into contact with communities where large numbers of people are unvaccinated. Experts believe many parents are leaving their children unprotected as a result of the anti-vaccination movement falsely claiming a connection between the MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella) vaccine and the development of autism, as well as those refusing the shot for religious reasons.
Who Needs the MMR Vaccine?
To prevent measles infection and stem the spread of the disease, the CDC recommends 2 doses of MMR – separated by at least 28 days – for both children 12 months and older as well as unvaccinated teens and adults in high-risk populations including:
- College students
- Healthcare workers
- International travelers
Two doses of MMR are nearly 100% effective at measles prevention.
Evidence of Immunity
The MMR vaccine is not needed for those meeting the following CDC criteria:
- Written documentation of adequate vaccination
- Laboratory confirmation of immunity from past infection (having measles provides lifelong immunity.)
- Those born before 1957 (immunity is assumed from childhood infection – no booster needed.)
Measles at Work
The recent measles outbreak isn’t just making people sick, it’s also taking a toll on companies and the economic health of their employees. Even if a worker doesn’t contract the disease, they may be placed in weeks of mandatory quarantine if a family member becomes infected. Without enough sick leave or short-term disability insurance, employees can quickly find themselves in financial ruin, unable to pay the mortgage or even buy food. For companies, the loss of key staff members can slow productivity and may even prove detrimental to their bottom line.
GHRR Can Help
Along with our laboratory partners – LabCorp, Quest Diagnostics, and Concentra – GHRR is helping protect your staff and stop the outbreak through our measles testing and prevention program. Together, we can protect your company’s most important asset…your employees.
This program is strongly encouraged for companies in states reporting measles cases to the CDC:
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New York