If you, your family members, or even your friends have yet to get a measles vaccine, you may want to reconsider. 

Measles – an extremely contagious disease caused by a virus – has found its way back into the United States, including Virginia. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 220 cases of measles have been confirmed in 26 states and the District of Columbia. 

Other affected states include Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Washington.

New York banned unvaccinated students from Brooklyn schools

This unexpected wave of measles cases can be traced to outbreaks in various, often-frequented countries, including England, France, Germany, India, the Philippines, and Vietnam, the CDC reports. In addition, measles is on the rise in communities of unvaccinated children in the U.S. 

Within the past two months, 39 children in the Orthodox Jewish community of New York have contracted measles due to an outbreak caused by one unvaccinated child who was infected on a trip to Israel, according to the New York City Department of Health. Now, health officials are requiring students who attend Jewish schools in certain areas to get the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine. 

“Effective Friday, December 7, every student attending a yeshiva in the below zip codes in Borough Park and Williamsburg who is not vaccinated with the required number of doses of measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine will not be permitted to attend school, regardless of whether a case of measles has occurred in the school,” read a letter sent by the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

“Students cannot return to school until they are appropriately vaccinated, or until the outbreak is declared over, even if they have an approved religious or medical exemption to measles immunization,” the letter read. “If a person in your school develops measles, additional restrictions apply.

How is measles spread?

Measles, although considered a childhood disease, can affect people of any age. It’s a nasty little virus that is spread to others through sneezing and coughing. What’s worse? Measles can live for up to two hours in any space where an infected person has coughed or sneezed.

Can measles be treated with antibiotics? 

Because measles is a virus, treatment focuses on relief of symptoms – including fever, dry cough, runny nose, sore throat, inflamed eyes, skin rash – as your body works to do its magic and fight it off. Treatment methods may include a combination of medications to control pain or fever, fluids, antibiotics to treat secondary infections, and vitamin A supplements.

According to the Virginia Department of Health, the only way to prevent measles cases and outbreaks is to get the MMR vaccine. Two doses of this vaccine are recommended for all children and should be given at 12 to 15 months of age and right before the child enters kindergarten. 

If you have further questions about measles, contact your healthcare provider or call your local health department

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