What you Need to Know about the 2015 Measles Outbreak

Noble McIntyre on February 17, 2015

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It’s back. Measles was once considered to be a disease that was long gone… like polio or mumps, for example. But, whether or not there have been cases in your community yet, there’s a likelihood that there will be at some point. We don’t want anyone to be alarmed, but we do want you to be knowledgeable about what could be a deadly disease.

You might have read about the current outbreak, which originated at Disneyland in California in December. Since Disneyland is a tourist destination, and people travel from all over the world to the attraction, the single case at Disney has spread to over a hundred cases that are in nearly 10 states. For some people, the measles is similar to the flu. Symptoms can include:

  • fever
  • dry cough
  • runny nose
  • sore throat
  • inflamed eyes (conjunctivitis)
  • Koplik’s spots (tiny white spots with bluish centers inside the mouth)
  • skin rash (large, flat blotches that might touch one another)

Often, these symptoms can last for up to three weeks. The measles rash is the second phase of the illness, and it will appear after experiencing the flu-like symptoms for a few days. Usually, the rash begins at the person’s face and spreads gradually down the body.

Although for many people, the measles can come and go much like the flu, for others, there are complications that include:

  • bacterial ear infection
  • bronchitis, laryngitis or croup (inflammation of the voice box or the main air passageways of your lungs)
  • pneumonia (sometimes fatal)
  • encephalitis (inflammation of the brain that could cause vomiting, convulsions, coma or even death)
  • pregnancy complications including miscarriage, preterm labor or low birth weight
  • low platelet count (which could prevent blood from clotting)

About one in 1,000 measles patients develops encephalitis, and it can occur either immediately following the measles infection or several months later.

How contagious is the measles?

The measles is highly contagious. It is spread from person to person by exposure to nose and throat mucus that travels through the air when the infected person coughs or sneezes. It can live on a surface or in the air for up to two hours after a person has coughed or sneezed there, so if someone who is not immune breathes that air or touches a surface and then touches his or her eyes, mouth or nose, that person could become infected. As well, an infected person can spread the illness from four days before the rash appears to four days after it has disappeared.

What do I do if I’ve been exposed to the measles?

First, know your immune status. If you are planning a trip to an area where there are recently documented cases, or if you are aware of measles cases in your community, try to avoid being anywhere that infected people may be or have recently been unless you and your family are fully vaccinated against the measles. Most children receive the MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccine in two doses: the first at 12 to 15 months of age and the second between ages four and six. A child is considered “fully vaccinated” after the second vaccine, but 95% of children are immune after receiving the first dose of the MMR vaccine.

People born before 1956 are presumed immune because so many children had the disease at that time that they likely have natural immunity at this point. If you are an adult and you’re not sure if you had the MMR vaccine, you can request a blood test from your physician to determine whether or not you’re immune.

Second, if you or your child has been exposed to the measles, or if you have a rash that resembles a measles-like rash, call your doctor right away. One reason why the cases have spread so far and wide is that many practicing physicians don’t immediately recognize the symptoms of measles. Measles does begin with symptoms of the common cold or flu, but some doctors don’t necessarily correctly identify the rash that appears after a few days. When a doctor fails to diagnose the condition immediately, it allows for the disease to spread to unsuspecting others. Failure to diagnose a condition is a form of medical malpractice. It generally refers to physicians who did not meet the standard of care in diagnosing a serious medical condition. If you or a loved one has been in that situation, call us. The McIntyre Law team is ready to help you get the compensation you deserve.

Noble McIntyre

Noble McIntyre is the senior partner and owner of McIntyre Law who focuses primarily on drug litigation and catastrophic injury cases. He is currently representing clients injured by the drugs Paxil, Levaquin and testosterone therapy drugs and by clients affected by oil field injuries. His goal has and continues to be to work diligently on behalf of his clients to achieve the highest and best result for his clients’ injuries while maintaining professionalism and abiding by all ethical standards of his profession. Read more about Noble McIntyre.

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