Mar 23, 2019 | Updated: 12:48 PM EDT

Measles exposure, what do you need to do?

Mar 14, 2019 02:25 PM EDT

measles exposure

Although there was a spread of measles that was eliminate back in 2009, there is a current measles outbreak in the United States. This is due to unvaccinated people who travelled outside the country, got measles and returns while still contagious.

"Measles is so contagious that if one person has it, 90% of the people close to that person who are not immune will also become infected," said CDC on Transmission of Measles.

In addition to the fact that people with measles are contagious for at least four days before they develop the classic measles rash until four days after, the measles virus can survive for up to two hours in the air and on contaminated surfaces wherever that person cough or sneeze. So you don't technically need to even be in direct contact with the person with measles - simply entering a room or getting on a bus that the infected person recently left can do it.

"Evidence of adequate vaccination for school-aged children, college students, and students in other postsecondary educational institutions who are at risk for exposure and infection during measles and mumps outbreaks consists of 2 doses of measles- or mumps-containing vaccine separated by at least 28 days, respectively. If the outbreak affects preschool-aged children or adults with community-wide transmission, a second dose should be considered for children aged 1 through 4 years or adults who have received 1 dose. In addition, during measles outbreaks involving infants aged <12 months with ongoing risk for exposure, infants aged ≥6 months can be vaccinated." said CDC on Prevention of Measles, Rubella, Congenital Rubella Syndrome, and Mumps, 2013: Summary Recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices.

So what do you do when your vaccinated child is exposed to measles? Since kids get their first dose of MMR at 12 to 15 months and the second when they are 4 to 6 years old, it is easy to see that many infants, toddlers and preschoolers who are following the immunization schedule are not going to be fully vaccinated against measles, even if they are not skipping or delaying any vaccines.

In some cases, documentation of age-appropriate vaccination with at least one dose of MMR is good enough protection, which means that toddlers and preschoolers don't necessarily need an early second dose. That's because the focus in controlling an outbreak is often on those folks who don't have any evidence of immunity - the unvaccinated.

So what do you do when your unvaccinated child is exposed to measles? If your unvaccinated child is exposed to measles, you should talk to your pediatrician or local health department about starting post-exposure prophylaxis as soon as possible.


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