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Cases and outbreaks of serious illnesses in the news is enough to catch any parent’s attention. Most recently, outbreaks of the measles have been monitored in several states, including Illinois. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), as of early September 2018, 124 individual cases of measles have been confirmed in 22 states and the District of Columbia. The number of cases has been increasing within the last few years, from 86 in 2016 and 118 in 2017, but thankfully, is still well under the peak of 667 cases in 2014. In terms of outbreaks, which is defined as three or more linked cases, there have been 9 reported so far in 2018.

While the CDC claims that the current outbreak count is within the normal range, there is still concern among parents–especially those with very young children–about how to keep themselves and their families safe. It’s important to be aware of the signs and symptoms of measles, treatment options and how to keep your family safe, especially young children.

What are the measles and what are the symptoms?

The measles is a highly contagious virus that lives in mucus within the throat and nose of an infected person. It’s often spread through coughing and sneezing, but it can live up to two hours in the air after an infected person has coughed or sneezed. Symptoms begin showing within 7 to 14 days after infection, often starting with a high fever, cough, runny nose, and red, watery eyes. These symptoms are followed by a rash that starts from the head and spreads down over the entire body, including the hands and feet. Sometimes small, white spots appear inside of the mouth as well.

The virus can be very serious regardless of the infected person’s age, but is typically worst in those age 5 and younger or 20 and older. An ear infection that results in permanent hearing loss is a common complication, occurring in roughly one out of ten children with measles. About one out of 20 infected children develop pneumonia, which is the leading cause of death associated with the measles. In some rare instances, a child will develop encephalitis or swelling of the brain or have the long-term complication known as SSPE, which is a fatal disease of the central nervous system. Overall, according to the CDC, “for every 1,000 children who get measles, one or two will die from it.”

How are the measles treated?

Unfortunately, once infected, there is no treatment to cure measles, which is why protection against the virus is essential. In most cases, symptoms typically clear within 2 to 3 weeks, but the doctor may prescribe solutions to help make the patient more comfortable as the virus takes its course. Getting rest, drinking more fluids and taking acetaminophen to alleviate fever and muscle aches can all help provide comfort while the body fights the virus.

How can I protect my family from the measles?

Vaccination is by far the best and most recommended method for protection against the virus. However, for those with children too young for the vaccine (vaccination age for measles is 12 months) or those who are unable to vaccinate due to medical reasons, the best option to protect your family is to limit interactions with others if you reside in an area where an outbreak or cases are present. This can mean staying home from work or school, avoiding social interactions, and staying away from crowded public areas unless completely necessary until the threat has passed.

If you have any questions or concerns regarding the measles, or any other questions about your child’s health, contact us today.