Carol Uher, program director of infection prevention at Fairview, shares advice for patients, families and the community on how to stop the spread of measles.
It is natural to be concerned about the recent measles outbreak in Minnesota, especially as the number of cases has grown. The good news is that most Minnesota residents are vaccinated against measles and cannot contract or spread the disease.
Every person in the state can play a role in stopping the spread of measles, whether now, during this current outbreak, or in the future. Here’s how.
Stay informed and stop the spread
- Vaccinations are key: The single best way to prevent the spread of measles is to receive two rounds of the vaccination, known as MMR. If a person is vaccinated, you are protected from the disease. If you have questions about vaccinations, the best source of information is your primary care provider. Also contact your primary care provider or clinic if you need to confirm whether you or your child has been fully vaccinated.
- How infection happens: Measles is a highly contagious disease spread through the air when an infected person coughs and breathes. If an unvaccinated person breaths that air, he or she has a high probability of getting infected. If you are at risk for contracting measles and suspect you may have been exposed to measles, stay home and avoid contact with visitors until you have talked with your doctor.
- Symptoms to watch for: Measles starts off with symptoms that include high fever, cough, runny nose and watery eyes. Generally, about two weeks after exposure, those with the disease will develop a rash that starts on the head and then spreads to the trunk of the body, lasting several days. People with measles are most contagious to others four days before the rash appears until four days after it appears. If you are at risk for contracting measles and have these symptoms, stay home and avoid contact with visitors until you have talked with your doctor.
- If you cannot be vaccinated: Infants under the age of 12 months, individuals with a weakened immune system and pregnant women are not advised to get the MMR vaccination. Infants may have some protection from measles from their mothers if their mother has been vaccinated or already had measles. If you cannot be vaccinated, encourage your family members to get vaccinated. If you have been exposed to measles, contact your primary care provider for treatment with other medication that contains antibodies to fight the measles virus.
If you or your child need a measles vaccination, call your primary care provider and tell them you need to be vaccinated. If you are concerned about the cost of the measles vaccine, look at the Minnesota Vaccines For Children Program.