At one time, measles was a prevalent disease in the United States. Many people have died from the measles and still do in other parts of the world. Due to a vaccine created in 1957, most people in our country are now immune to the virus and measles has all but disappeared throughout the U.S.
In the last month, however, there has been a new outbreak of measles across the United States with a hundred people being infected, over half of them in the state of Washington. Here in Atlanta, Georgia, three children were confirmed to have measles. Although the disease did not spread beyond them, it’s important to understand what measles is and what we need to do to protect ourselves and each other.
A vaccine for measles was created in 1957. Most people born since then have received it as children and are now immune. In the last two decades, however, there is a movement to not vaccinate your child due to misinformation about potential side effects. This has created pools of people who are vulnerable to the disease and who easily catch and spread the virus. Additionally, some people have medical conditions that don’t permit them to have the vaccine or are under the age of one and are too young to receive it. These groups of people depend on those around them who do have a choice to be vaccinated so the virus is not spread.
The measles virus incubates in a person for 10-14 days before someone shows any symptoms. These symptoms include:
- dry cough
- Runny nose
- Sore throat
- Inflamed eyes
- Red rash (starts on the face and spreads from there)
Anyone who has the virus is extremely contagious four days before the rash appears and four days afterwards for a total of eight days. Since the disease starts out by looking like a cold, many people have unknowingly spread the virus before realizing what it actually is. Once a person catches it, the virus finds its way into the nose and throat. So when they cough, sneeze, or talk, the virus goes into the air and stays airborne. It can also remain on surfaces for up to two hours, ready to infect anyone in the area.
In addition to the virus itself, there can be additional complications due to the disease that in extreme cases can cause blindness and even death.
What do I do if someone with measles has been in my home or business?
If someone with the measles has been in your home or business, you need to let the health department know. Along with information about the time period of when others might have been infected. If it’s in your home, you need to let people know who have come into contact with the virus. Anyone unvaccinated can either receive the vaccine or keep an eye out for any symptoms.
What if I am showing symptoms?
If you feel you have the symptoms of measles, call your local health clinic or doctor’s office before going there in order to prevent infecting others. If you do indeed have the measles, your doctor will contact the health department. You will need to give them information on where you have gone while you’ve been contagious. Though there is no cure, you can take fever reducers until it passes.
What do I do if there is an outbreak in my area?
When an outbreak does occur, if you are not vaccinated and cannot be given the shot for one reason or another or are the parent of a child under age one, it is recommended you and your child stay home as much as possible, avoiding public areas where you might become infected.
Measles is so serious a disease that the local health department immediately becomes involved. They talk with infected people to find out when and where other people may have become infected. They release that information to the public so others know if they were exposed to the virus.
Consider having the impacted area decontaminated by a biohazard cleanup company. Reduce the risk of becoming infected or spreading the measles by having the space decontaminated. This becomes especially important when the outbreak happens in areas such as schools, church, businesses or healthcare facilities. We at Georgia Clean are equipped to clean and decontaminate measles virus. We use state-of-the-art equipment for measles decontamination.