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The measles: Are you at risk?

Concerned about the recent news of a measles outbreak? Here’s how to keep your family safe and healthy.

Measles is a highly contagious viral disease. It’s spread through the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes. It’s also spread by direct contact with the nose or throat mucus (snot) of someone with measles.

The initial symptoms are:

  • A fever of 101 degrees or higher, runny nose, cough, red eyes and a sore throat.
  • These symptoms are followed by a red blotchy rash starting on the face or hairline and spreading to the rest of the body. This typically occurs within 3-5 days.
  • Sometimes there are complications like pneumonia, ear infections or diarrhea.

Children, pregnant women, people who have weakened immune systems (such as the elderly or people with health conditions), and those who’ve never received a measles vaccination are the most at risk.

How to avoid the measles

The best protection against measles is two doses of the MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine.

If you have received both doses of the MMR vaccine, your risk of contracting measles is very low. If you have never received a measles vaccine, you should receive at least one dose of the MMR vaccine.

  • Two doses of the MMR vaccine are 97 percent effective at preventing measles.
  • One dose of the MMR vaccine is 93 percent effective at preventing measles.

If you think you’ve been exposed to measles

If you’ve never had a measles vaccine, you have a 90 percent chance of catching it if you go near someone who has it. You can spread measles for four days before the rash appears and up to four days after. So if you think you’ve been exposed, avoid public spaces even if you haven’t had all of the symptoms.

Call your provider if you aren’t immunized against measles or have a weakened immune system, and start to develop signs or symptoms of measles. You must call your healthcare provider prior to visiting the medical office so they can reduce the chance of exposing others to measles.

What else you can do?

Here are some more tips to avoid the measles:

  • Check your vaccine records: Review your own and your family’s vaccine records for MMR vaccines.
  • Get vaccinated: There’s no substitute for getting vaccinated. If you’re a non-pregnant adult who has never received a measles vaccine, you should receive at least one dose of the MMR vaccine.
  • Get tested: If you’re not sure if you’re still protected, a simple blood test called an MMR titer test can show if you’re still immune to measles or need a booster shot.

Usually, the MMR vaccine is 100 percent covered under preventive care by your health insurance‐meaning you don’t pay anything for it. A MMR titer test is often covered as well, but you may need to pay a copay.

Keeping you and your family healthy and safe is crucial. Talk to your healthcare provider about all your options. And if you’d like the most up-to-date information on measles cases in our area, visit the Multnomah County website, or check with your local health department.

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