Measles Outbreak Continues to Grow

Dr. Pat O’Neal, director of Health Protection at the Georgia Department of Public Health


The number of measles cases continues to grow following an outbreak at Disneyland that began in December.

From Jan. 1 to Jan. 30, 102 people were reported to have measles from 14 states, but there have been no reported cases in Georgia, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. CBS News has reported health officials in Arizona are keeping tabs on 1,000 people, including nearly 200 children who could have been exposed to measles at a Phoenix-area medical center.

Most of the people infected were unvaccinated against the disease, including kids who were too young for the shots and those deciding against vaccination. But with at least five of the cases involving people who obtained their measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine, many are left wondering if shots provide lifelong protection or whether a booster shot may be in order.

“We don’t need to be alarmists. We need to be aware,” Dr. Pat O’Neal, director of Health Protection at the Georgia Department of Public Health, said about this latest outbreak. “Immunization is still our best protection against many diseases. What happened in Disneyland is an alert that we live in a world now in which international travel is very common and frequent, and diseases are only hours away.”

O’Neal and other experts say this latest outbreak is a reminder of the importance of keeping immunizations up to date.

The CDC recommends generally, people age 18 or older who were born after 1957 consider getting at least one dose of MMR vaccine unless they have records showing that they have either been vaccinated, or had all three diseases. If you are traveling to California, for example, or traveling overseas, O’Neal suggested talking to your primary doctor about whether your immunizations are up to date, and if you are unsure, consider obtaining a blood test to check to make sure you have adequate antibodies.

For those immunized as children, the chances of getting measles now are extremely slim, and if you do happen to get the virus, it will likely be a very mild case, he said.

Measles is a highly infectious disease that can swiftly spread when an infected person coughs, sneezes or shares food. The measles virus can live up to two hours on a hard surface. Complications can include ear infections and pneumonia. About 1 in 1,000 people with measles develops encephalitis, an inflammation of the brain that may cause vomiting, convulsions, and even death.


Measles is a childhood infection caused by a virus. Once quite common, measles can now almost always be prevented with a vaccine. Signs and symptoms of measles include cough, runny nose, inflamed eyes, sore throat, fever and a red, blotchy skin rash.
Also called rubeola, measles can be serious and even fatal for small children. While death rates have been falling worldwide as more children receive the measles vaccine, the disease still kills more than 100,000 people a year, most under the age of 5.
Measles is a highly contagious virus. When someone with measles coughs, sneezes or talks, infected droplets spray into the air, where other people can inhale them. The infected droplets may also land on a surface, where they remain active and contagious for several hours. Measles signs and symptoms appear 10 to 14 days after exposure to the virus.
Call your doctor if you think you or your child may have been exposed to measles or if you or your child has a rash resembling measles. Review your family’s immunization records with your doctor, especially before starting elementary school, before college and before international travel.


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