Officials urge vaccination against measles

Photo by Hugh Osteen

Photo by Hugh Osteen

By Johnny Jackson


Recent reports of measles cases occurring throughout the U.S., has spurred the Georgia Department of Community Health's (DCH) Division of Public Health to encourage members of the public to make sure their vaccinations are up-to-date.

"As measles cases continue to occur sporadically nationwide, now is the perfect time to remind Georgians of the role each of us plays in keeping our community healthy," said Anil Mangla, DCH's director of infectious disease and immunization, and acting state epidemiologist.

Twenty-one cases of measles have been reported, so far this calendar year, said officials with the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Already, the number of measles cases is more than half way to the total reported in 2010, according to the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, published Friday. There were 34 such cases reported in 2010.

The weekly report revealed that 71 cases of measles were reported in 2009; 140 cases in 2008; 43 cases in 2007, and 55 cases in 2006.

While no measles cases have been reported, recently, in Georgia, the incubation period of measles is approximately 10 days. The CDC web site describes measles as an acute, highly contagious viral disease capable of producing epidemics. It can lead to complications, such as pneumonia, inflammation of the brain, middle ear infections, and convulsions.

According to the CDC's web site, the majority of this year's measles cases were linked to travel outside the United States, including travel to the Dominican Republic, France, India, and the United Kingdom.

DCH reported that most U.S. measles cases, in recent years, have been in people who were not vaccinated, but were exposed while traveling internationally to countries where the highly contagious disease is more common.

"We are very supportive of the state's effort to notify residents in order to heighten their awareness to measles," said Alpha Bryan, interim health director for DCH's District Four Public Health office.

Mangla said getting immunized is the most effective way to prevent the spread of the disease, which can be transmitted through contact with respiratory secretions, and through the air, by coughing and sneezing.

Symptoms include fever, runny nose and cough, followed within 3 to 4 days by a rash that starts at the hairline and spreads over the body.

Mangla warned, in a news release, that the disease can be prevented by the combination MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccine. Infants less than one year of age, who are too young to be immunized (the first dose of MMR is recommended at one year of age), are most at risk of acquiring measles, as are any persons who are unvaccinated or immunocompromised.

All children should receive two doses, with the first recommended at 12 to 15 months, and the second dose at age 4 to 6 years, said Mangla. All adults should receive at least one dose, unless they have proof of previous immunity.

Persons aged 12 months or older, planning to travel internationally, should be protected with two doses of measles vaccine. Infants between the ages of 6 months and 11 months, who will be traveling abroad, should receive one dose before travel.

The DCH advises that, if you suspect you have measles, contact your local health-care provider by phone to discuss symptoms and risk of exposure. To learn more, visit www.health.state.ga.us, or call the Acute Disease Epidemiology Section of the Georgia Division of Public Health, at (404) 657-2588.