Special Alert: Measles on the Rise – What You Need to Know
Over the last few weeks, you have probably seen news stories about the recent outbreaks of the measles in the United States. From January 1 to March 20, 2015, 178 people from 17 states and Washington DC were reported to have contracted the measles from a large, multi-state outbreak linked to an amusement park in California. This follows the news that the U.S. experienced a record number of measles cases during 2014: 644 incidents in 27 states, according to the Center for Disease Control's (CDC) National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases. This is the greatest number of cases since measles elimination was documented in the U.S. in 2000.
At AliCare Medical Management, we care about your health. This Special Alert shares information about the measles and how you can protect yourself and your family from this disease. Knowledge and preparation are your best tools in the fight against the measles; these resources will help you make smart decisions to keep you healthy and out of the hospital.
Why the Concern?
Knowing the history of the measles in the U.S. helps explain our current, serious situation. According to the CDC, in 1912, the measles, also known as rubeola, was first considered a “notifiable disease”, so each diagnosed case had to be reported by doctors and laboratories. For the first decade of reporting, there were roughly 6,000 deaths each year. From 1912 to 1963, the year when a vaccine was developed for measles, between 3 and 4 million people contracted the measles every year. Hospitalization, encephalitis (brain swelling) and even death were common complications. As a result, it’s important to remember that over the last 20 years, vaccination has prevented about 71 million cases of the measles and almost 9 million hospitalizations. Before the vaccine, the measles would cause about 3 million cases a year, 48,000 hospitalizations and 500 deaths.
By 2000, the U.S. experienced an absence of continuous disease transmission for greater than 12 months due to decades of vaccination efforts, meaning that the measles were considered to be eliminated. However, in recent years, parents have not vaccinated their children against the measles due to the spread of vaccination myths. These myths have opened the door to the comeback of the disease.
What is the Measles?
The measles is a highly contagious, viral disease; its most common symptoms include high fever, a rash of small red spots, runny nose and red eyes. More serious complications include ear infections, deafness, diarrhea, dehydration, pneumonia, encephalitis and even death. In fact, 10 to 20 out of 10,000 children who contract measles will die from it, according to the CDC. Children are most commonly affected by the virus, but non-immunized adults can also develop it.
How Contagious is the Measles?
The measles spreads when an infected person sneezes or coughs without covering their mouth or touches objects that other people may touch such as doorknobs, shopping carts, desks or other surfaces. If a person breathes infected air or touches an infected surface, they can also contract the disease.
In fact, the measles is so contagious that 90% of people who are not vaccinated who come into contact with an infected person will develop the disease. While infected people are the most contagious when they have a fever, runny nose and cough, they are also contagious from 4 days before the rash appears until about 4 days after.You or your children can be exposed to someone with measles while they are contagious before they even know they have it. This is why up to 18 people can be infected by one person.
CDC Measles Chart. Click here to see this and other charts about the spread of measles.
What to Do If You or a Loved One Gets the Measles
If you or your child contracts the measles, stay in touch with your health care provider for the duration of the disease, as it can cause dangerous side effects like brain swelling or even death. If you or your child display the following symptoms, you may need to go to the hospital for further evaluation:
Shortness of breath that comes with little or no exertion
Phlegm or mucus produced for two or more weeks
A cough that lasts two weeks or produces blood
A persistent cough with a fever, for instance, could be a sign of pneumonia. See your doctor right away if you have any of these symptoms. The earlier you catch problems, the more easily they can be treated.
Because the measles is a viral infection, no treatment can cure an established infection. However, a doctor can prescribe relief for the symptoms, such as:
Fever reducers like acetaminophen or ibuprofen. Do not give aspirin to anyone under the age of 20 because of the risk of Reye syndrome.
Antibiotics for bacterial infections like pneumonia, if they develop.
Staying home and getting the rest you need. It is one of the best ways to deal with the measles, and it keeps you from spreading the illness to other people.
Drinking extra fluids. Warm fluids are soothing, especially if your throat is irritated. Drinking adequate fluids is important to prevent dehydration when you have a fever.
Sleeping with your head elevated to relieve nasal congestion. For adults, over-the-counter decongestants can be used. Be sure to follow the recommended dosage and precautions. If you have high blood pressure, diabetes, coronary artery disease, thyroid disease or are pregnant, talk to your doctor before using decongestants.
Using a humidifier to relieve cough and sore throat.
How to Protect Yourself and Your Family from Getting the Measles
The measles can be easily prevented with the MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine. One dose of the MMR vaccine is 93% effective at preventing the measles; two doses are 97% effective. Children should receive their first dose of the MMR vaccine between 12 and 15 months of age and the second dose at four to six years of age. Children may receive the second dose earlier as long as it is 28 days after the first dose. Infants who are traveling can receive the MMR vaccine as early as six months old.
Most people have no side effects from receiving the vaccine. Redness or swelling at the injection site may occur for one or two days. Occasionally, fever and muscle aches may also be present. On very rare occasions, allergic reactions or seizures may occur.
AliCare Medical Management: Your Partner
For questions or concerns about immunizations, contagious diseases, aches and pains, and general pediatric and adult health, AliCare Medical Management (AMM) offers Nurse HelpLine and Health Information Services under its Care Management programs, which are accredited pursuant to URAC’s Health Call Center Standards. Currently, over two million people have access to our Nurse HelpLine.
Experienced, registered nurses are available via a specially assigned toll-free telephone number for each client or group, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. Using advanced clinical criteria, Nurse HelpLine staff can provide health information and education to patients and their families. Telephone triage and health care counseling assesses health status and provides immediate health information, directing patients to the appropriate level of care and reducing health care costs. In addition, all of our Care Management programs provide physician back-up availability if needed.
AMM’s Health Information Library includes over 1,000 pre-recorded health related messages, available in English and Spanish. A website library is also available.
The Nurse HelpLine program helps reduce unnecessary emergency room and physician visits and provides patients with around-the-clock access to care.
For more information about AliCare Medical Management’s services, visit www.alicaremed.com.
AliCare Medical Management (AMM), a member of the Amalgamated Family of Companies, is a national leader in developing care management solutions that promote cost savings and patient satisfaction. AMM’s call center is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year to provide maximum access and assure optimum program effectiveness. The company’s services include: 24-hour Nurse HelpLine, Utilization Management, Maternity Management, Case Management, Disease Management, Health Coaching and Wellness, Independent Physician Review, Medical Claims Review and Hospital Bill Auditing. AMM holds four URAC accreditations for Utilization Management, Case Management, Health Call Center and Independent Review.