What You Need to Know About Measles

Posted on: 02/09/2015

With the recently confirmed cases of measles in the Chicago area, parents are naturally concerned about their children’s health and well-being. Below are answers to the most common questions that we are receiving.

When should my child receive the measles vaccination?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends all children get two doses of the MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine, starting with the first dose at 12 through 15 months of age, and the second dose at 4 through 6 years of age.

Should my child who is less than 12 months old have the vaccine?

At this time, officials are not recommending early vaccination unless the child 1) has had a “known exposure” to the measles virus or 2) if there are plans for upcoming air travel abroad or to an area of known measles outbreak. In these two situations, children who are at least 6 months of age may receive the MMR vaccine. Note: Children receiving the MMR vaccine prior to 12 months of age will still require two additional doses of the vaccine per the regular recommended schedule.

Should my child receive the second dose of MMR vaccine early?

While children may receive the second dose of the MMR vaccine early (before 4 years of age), at this time officials are not recommending an early booster vaccination.

What are the symptoms of measles?

Measles signs and symptoms will generally appear 8 to 12 days after exposure to the virus. Signs and symptoms of measles are progressive and typically include:

  • High fever
  • Dry cough
  • Runny nose
  • Sore throat
  • Inflamed eyes (conjunctivitis)
  • Tiny white spots with bluish-white centers on a red background found inside the mouth on the inner lining of the cheek — also called Koplik's spots
  • A skin rash made up of large, flat blotches that often flow into one another

The infection occurs in sequential stages over a period of two to three weeks.

1. Infection and incubation. For the first 8 to 12 days after you're infected, the measles virus incubates. You have no signs or symptoms of measles during this time.

2. Nonspecific signs and symptoms. Measles typically begins with a mild to moderate fever, often accompanied by a persistent cough, runny nose, inflamed eyes (conjunctivitis) and sore throat. This relatively mild illness may last two or three days.

3. Acute illness and rash. The rash consists of small red spots, some of which are slightly raised. Spots and bumps in tight clusters give the skin a splotchy red appearance. The face breaks out first, particularly behind the ears and along the hairline.

Over the next few days, the rash spreads down the arms and trunk, then over the thighs, lower legs and feet. At the same time, fever rises sharply, often as high as 104 to 105.8 F (40 to 41 C). The measles rash gradually recedes, fading first from the face and last from the thighs and feet.

4. Communicable period. A person with measles can spread the virus to others for about 8 days, starting four days before the rash appears and ending when the rash has been present for four days.

Call our office if you believe your child may have the measles.

The physicians and staff of Lake Forest Pediatric Associates are committed to the health and well-being of your children. Rest assured that we will continue to monitor developments in this situation and make information available to the parents of our patients.

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