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Public Health Month–Help Prevent Measles

Measles cases are on the rise in many parts of the world. There have been recent cases throughout the United States.

“This national increase in measles cases has brought the protection provided by vaccinations back into the spotlight,” said Lisa Moose, RN, Veterans Memorial Hospital Community and Home Care/Allamakee County Public Health Director.  “It’s always important to keep your vaccinations up-to-date, but during times like this, when we know a virus is circulating in many states, it’s especially critical to check with your health care provider to be sure you and your family’s vaccinations are current.”

The best way to prevent measles is to get the measles-mumps-rubella shot (called MMR). The MMR vaccine is very safe and effective. Two doses of MMR vaccine are about 97% effective at preventing measles; one dose is about 93% effective.

Two doses of MMR are required for elementary and secondary school entry in Iowa. The first dose should be given at 12 to 15 months of age and the second dose  is usually administered as part of the kindergarten shots given between 4-6 years of age. Generally, persons who started elementary school in Iowa after 1991 and were up-to-date on all school entry vaccine requirements have received two doses of MMR vaccine.

It is recommended that adults born in 1957 or later receive at least one dose of MMR vaccine, or have a laboratory test proving that they are immune and are protected. It is assumed that persons born in the U.S. prior to 1957 were likely infected with the measles virus and therefore have presumptive immunity. In addition, two doses of MMR is recommended for adults of all ages who work or volunteer in health care facilities, travel internationally, or are students in a post-secondary institution, if they do not have laboratory proof of immunity.

Giving vaccines to those who may have already had measles or may have already received the recommended vaccination is not harmful; it only boosts immunity. Therefore, if someone is unable to verify prior vaccination or history of illness, the easiest, quickest and most appropriate thing to do is to vaccinate the individual.

Measles is one of the most contagious of all infectious diseases .  It starts with a high fever. Soon after, it causes a cough, runny nose, and red eyes. Three to seven days after the fever, a rash of tiny, red spots breaks out. It usually starts at the head and spreads to the rest of the body. The rash can last for a week, and coughing can last for 10 days.

Immunization clinics are held at Veterans Memorial Hospital Community and Home Care-Allamakee Public Health every Wednesday afternoon. To make an appointment for a vaccination, please call them at 568-5660.