Published on February 09, 2015

Prevent Measles in Your Community

PELLA, Iowa— The United States is currently experiencing a large, multi-state outbreak of measles. More than 100 people from 14 states in the U.S. have been confirmed as having measles.

Measles is one of the most infectious diseases on earth. It starts with a high fever. Soon after, it causes a cough, runny nose, and red eyes. Three to seven days after the fever, a rash of tiny, red spots breaks out. It usually starts at the head and spreads to the rest of the body. The rash can last for a week, and coughing can last for 10 days.

“It’s always important to keep your vaccinations up-to-date, but during times like this, when we know a virus is circulating in many states, it’s especially critical to be sure you and your family’s vaccinations are current,” said Jennifer Henely, Infection Preventionist at Pella Regional Health Center. “The best way to prevent measles is to get the measles-mumps-rubella shot (called MMR). Two doses of MMR will provide more than 99 percent of people lifelong protection against measles.”

Two doses of MMR are required for elementary and secondary school entry in Iowa. The first dose should be given at 12 months of age and the second dose can be administered as soon as 28 days later, though many are administered as part of the kindergarten shots. Generally, those who started elementary school in Iowa after 1991 and were up-to-date on all school entry vaccine requirements have received two doses of MMR vaccine.

It is recommended that adults born in 1957 or later receive at least one dose of MMR vaccine, or have a laboratory test proving that they are immune and are protected. It is assumed that persons born in the U.S. prior to 1957 were likely infected with the measles virus and therefore have presumptive immunity. In addition, two doses of MMR is recommended for adults of all ages who travel internationally, or are students in a post-secondary institution, if they do not have laboratory proof of immunity.

Giving vaccines to those who may have already had measles or may have already received the recommended vaccination is not harmful; it only boosts immunity. Therefore, if someone is unable to verify prior vaccination or history of illness, the easiest, quickest and most appropriate thing to do is to vaccinate.