Once considered a childhood illness, measles has reared its ugly head in 26 states.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the presence of measles has been confirmed in Maryland, along with 25 other states and the District of Columbia. As of November 2018, 220 cases of measles and 15 outbreaks (a collection of three or more linked cases) have been confirmed this year alone.
The other states affected are Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and Washington.
Lack of vaccinations has caused previous outbreaks
Despite being eradicated in 2000, the disease has stuck around and continues to spread due to travel to countries with dwindling vaccination rates and the "anti-vax" movement that's prevalent in the United States. The CDC said the cases can be tracked to frequently traveled-to countries, including France, Germany, England, India, Vietnam, and the Philippines.
This isn't the first time there's been a measles epidemic. In 2017, a Somali-American community in Minneapolis was struck hard by the virus, sickening 75 people total. In 2015, a large-scale, multi-state outbreak -- 147 cases -- was linked to an amusement park in California. The suspected source of the outbreak likely caught the disease abroad and was contagious when they attended the park.
What is measles?
Measles is a highly contagious virus known for its flu-like symptoms. It's associated with childhood illnesses like chickenpox, but anyone can get it at any age. It's easily spread through coughing and sneezing, and complications can include diarrhea, pneumonia, and even death. The red rash commonly associated with the virus develops 14 days after exposure, and the infected person is capable of spreading the disease four days before or after it develops.
Is there a cure?
While there's no specific cure for measles, the virus can be tackled with antibiotics for relieving the myriad of symptoms. Antibiotics can be prescribed for eye or ear infections, while a reliable dose of Tylenol can help rein in the fever. However, the most important thing you or your loved ones can do is get the measles vaccine.
According to the Maryland Department of Health, one dose of the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine is recommended for children between the ages of 12 to 15 months, and all schoolchildren in Maryland from kindergarten to grade 12 are now required to receive a second dose of the vaccine as well.
If you are not vaccinated and find that you were exposed to measles, vaccination within 72 hours of exposure could head off the development of the disease in your body. Quick action is vital.
For more information regarding measles and its prevention, contact your healthcare provider or your local health department.