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Dr. Magryta: Measles is a serious disease

August 15, 2016: A measles case has surfaced in Wake County in an unvaccinated teenager returning from Europe.

Whether this index case will spread around the state is still in process and we will watch it carefully.

Vigilance is the key to preventing an outbreak. An educated populace is ready to recognize the disease early, seek medical help and quarantine the infected.

What is measles?

Measles is a serious, highly contagious and potentially deadly viral infection, spread by contact with droplets from an infected person’s nose, mouth or throat. Sneezing and coughing can aerosolize the droplets and increase the range of infectious spread. Symptoms usually develop 8 to 10 days following exposure to an infected individual.

Measles presents with high fever, rash, cough, myalgias, sore throat and red eyes. Children often look very sick. The rash begins 14 days after exposure and is characterized by red bumps that start on the head and move down the body. The illness can be mild or severe. Some children go on to get encephalitis, a brain inflammatory disorder that can be deadly. This occurs in 1 in 1000 cases of measles. Other complications include: pneumonia, ear infections and sinusitis.

Measles is very dangerous for pregnant women. It can cause premature birth and miscarriage.

Since I have never seen this disease, I am again avidly reviewing the pictures and clinical history. I encourage those with unvaccinated children to seriously reconsider their position on the vaccine or at least know what the illness looks like. Go to Google images and look at the rash and Koplik spots, which are pathognomonic for the illness.

If you think that you or your child may have measles, it is imperative that you inform your medical provider, or the location to which you are going — prior to showing up — so that appropriate precautions can be taken to isolate the infected person. Walking into the waiting room dramatically increases viral spread, as it is spread through coughing and can live on any surface for two hours. Others can then touch a surface containing viral particles and become infected. This is how contagion begins.

Measles is not treatable but you can take Vitamin A as prescribed by your physician to help with the illness, or to potentially prevent it. If you have a known exposure, seek medical help for possible vaccination or immune globulin therapy (especially if you are high risk: pregnant women, infants and people with weakened immune systems).

From the desk of Megan Davies, NC State Epidemiologist:

“Any patient presenting with a febrile [accompanied by fever] rash illness should be immediately isolated, using airborne isolation precautions if possible.

“Unvaccinated persons who have been exposed to a person with measles should be advised to stay home for 21 days from the last exposure and limit contact with others to avoid spreading the illness.”

Be ready.

Dr. Magryta is a physician at Salisbury Pediatric Associates. Contact him at newsletter@salisburypediatrics.com

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