Measles has been in the news a lot lately, and although Oklahoma has no reported cases in 2015 the Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) is urging all Oklahomans to get vaccinated.
Measles has spread to 141 cases in 17 states in the U.S. Worldwide, the illness took 145,000 lives last year. It is a viral infection especially dangerous for small children that is preventable by vaccine, which is why OSDH is urging parents to make sure their loved ones are vaccinated against measles.
OSDH reports that in 2014, the United States saw 644 cases of measles, the most cases since measles was eliminated in 2000.
“One out of 10 Oklahoma toddlers has not received the first dose of measles vaccine,” said Dr. Terry Cline, Commissioner of Health. “We strongly recommend that parents make sure their children receive the first dose of measles vaccine on time. These toddlers who haven’t received the vaccine are at risk for measles. The best way to protect yourself and your family is to be vaccinated against measles.”
Measles can be prevented by the combination MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine. Toddlers can receive MMR as soon as they reach their first birthday. Public health officials recommend all children receive two doses of MMR vaccine, with the first dose at 12 to 15 months of age, and a booster at 4 to 6 years of age. Oklahoma state law requires the measles vaccine for all children attending childcare and school in Oklahoma.
People with measles can spread the virus up to four days before the onset of the rash until four days after the rash starts. Anyone who suspects they may have measles should contact a healthcare provider immediately.
Symptoms of this highly contagious illness begin with fever, runny nose, red eyes and a cough. Within a few days, a rash appears on the forehead and moves to the rest of the body. Fevers can climb to as high as 105 degrees. The disease is most dangerous for young children, pregnant women and those with weakened immune systems.
OSDH stresses the vaccination also is important to those who are planning on traveling internationally, or to an area where a measles outbreak is occurring.
The vaccine is provided at no charge at local county health departments for children without insurance, children whose insurance doesn't cover vaccines, those eligible for SoonerCare or Native American children. Some county health departments also have the MMR vaccine available for children with insurance. It is important to bring an insurance card. For more information about measles, please visit the OSDH Acute Disease Service website.