Tag: measles exposure

Is Measles Dangerous If You Are Pregnant?

While folks often try and make it seem like measles is a common childhood illness, we know that it can be dangerous.

“One of the patients was a 20-year-old pregnant woman who had rash onset on January 5 following exposure to her 12-year-old brother. After delivering a healthy baby on January 6, the mother developed severe pneumonia that was followed by respiratory arrest. She was resuscitated and transferred to an intensive care unit in a larger hospital nearby in Tennessee.”

Epidemiologic Notes and Reports Transmission of Measles Across State Lines — Kentucky, New Hampshire, Tennessee, Virginia

Rarely do people who have really had measles describe it as just a fever and a rash. They remember that it was called a harmless killer for a reason.

Is Measles Dangerous If You Are Pregnant?

And there are some situations in which measles can be especially dangerous, including if you get sick when you are very young, very old, or have immune system problems.

Pregnant women should be screened for measles immunity.
Pregnant women should be screened for measles immunity.

And what if you are pregnant when you get measles?

“The Health Department announced today that the number of measles cases has grown to 390, including two pregnant women diagnosed with the infection, one diagnosed in mid-April.”

The Number of Measles Cases Grows to 390

If you are pregnant and you are exposed to someone with measles, you can get IVIG post-exposure prophylaxis to prevent you from actually getting measles, but this typically only works if given within six days of the exposure.

“To date, studies have not identified an increased risk for birth defects when pregnant women get the measles during pregnancy. However, studies suggest that measles infection is associated with an increased risk for miscarriage, stillbirth, prematurity and the baby being born with a measles infection.”

When Measles Strike, It’s Not The Happiest Place On Earth For Pregnant Women

Unlike a rubella infection during pregnancy, a measles infection is not thought to cause birth defects. Tragically, it can, like rubella, lead to an increased risk for having a miscarriage.

“Infants who develop congenital measles are at increased risk for mortality and for subacute sclerosing panencephalitis, which is more common when measles is diagnosed in infancy. In addition, subacute sclerosing panencephalitis in newborns infected with measles either congenitally or shortly after birth appears to be more severe, with a shorter latency and rapidly progressive course.”

What Obstetric Health Care Providers Need to Know About Measles and Pregnancy

And if the mother gets measles very late in her pregnancy, it can also lead to a case of congenital measles, or a baby being born with an active measles infection.

“In 52% of cases, measles was likely acquired from a relative. Complications included pneumonia in one child; two pregnant women required hospitalization, including one who miscarried.”

Notes from the Field: Measles Outbreak Among Members of a Religious Community — Brooklyn, New York, March–June 2013

Don’t take the risk that you might get measles while you are pregnant.

Make sure you are vaccinated and protected before you ever start thinking about getting pregnant, as pregnancy is a contraindication to getting the MMR vaccine. And you should wait at least 4 weeks after getting vaccinated before getting pregnant.

More on Measles in Pregnancy

What Should You Do If Your Child Might Have Measles

As you hear more and more about measles outbreaks, eventually you might think that your child has measles.

Why?

Until a child develops the classic measles rash, the symptoms of measles can mimic many other more common viral illnesses, as they include fever, cough, coryza, red eyes, and irritability.

What Should You Do If Your Child Might Have Measles

And while many other viruses can cause a fever and rash, it is really only measles that causes the classic pattern of 3 or 4 days of high fever, followed by the appearance of a rash with continued fever.

Unfortunately, by the time your child has developed the rash, you may have already have gone to the doctor or ER a few times, exposing a lot of people to measles.

If your child has measles, don’t give it to anyone else.

That’s why it’s important to try and recognize measles as early as possible, so that you don’t expose anyone else and get them sick too.

It is especially important to think about measles if your child:

  • traveled out of the country in the past 7 to 21 days, the incubation period for measles
  • recently traveled to or lives in an area that is experiencing measles outbreaks
  • is not yet fully vaccinated, with two doses of MMR, keeping in mind that a small minority of people can get measles even if they are fully vaccinated

So what do you do if your child might have measles?

Ideally, you would call your health care provider, clinic, or emergency room ahead of time and let them know that you are concerned about measles. That allows them to take steps to minimize the risk that your child will expose others to measles.

While the child is isolated, health care professionals can then decide if it is necessary to do further testing for measles. If they do suspect measles, they may even call the local health department for further help.

If necessary, post-exposure prophylaxis might also be provided for the child’s contacts.

What if you aren’t sure if your child has measles? Put a mask on them anyway if there is any doubt! Don’t take a chance on causing a big outbreak.

During some outbreaks, communities have even had to implement universal masking of all patients and all family members to help get their outbreak under control.

And remember that the best way to stop these outbreaks is for everyone to get fully vaccinated on time and on schedule.

More on Measles Exposure Prevention Measures

What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Measles?

The first measles vaccine was developed in 1963 and its use led to a quick drop in measles cases in the United States.

In fact, as most people know, the endemic spread of measles was declared eliminated in the United States in 2000.

What does that mean?

A typical case of measles, as described in 1920, doesn't sound very mild or marvelous as some folks claim it to be.
A typical case of measles, as described in 1920, doesn’t sound very mild or marvelous as some folks claim it to be.

For one thing, it means that many people in the United States have never actually seen anyone with measles.

What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Measles?

As we are seeing more and more measles cases each year, it makes it important for everyone to learn how to recognize what measles looks like. Measles is so contagious, that missing just one case can lead to a lot of other people getting exposed unnecessarily and can keep an outbreak going.

So what does measles look like?

Call before you go to the ER or to see your doctor if you think your child has measles so that you don't put others at risk.
Call before you go to the ER or to see your doctor if you think your child has measles so that you don’t put others at risk.

After being exposed, kids with measles will develop:

  • a high fever
  • cough and/or runny nose
  • red, watery eyes with photophobia (dislike of bright light)
  • sore throat
  • irritability
  • decreased appetite

That sounds like many other viral infections that kids get though, which is why measles is so hard to diagnose, at least at the beginning stages of the illness, when kids only have the first signs of measles – the fever, cough, runny nose, and conjunctivitis.

Koplik spots, small gray-white spots in your mouth, are another clue that a child might have measles. They can develop on the second or third day of fever.

Next, after having the high fever for 3 to 5 days, kids develop a worsening fever and the classic measles rash. It is important to note that you are contagious well before you get the rash though, up to about four days before the rash develops, providing plenty of chances to expose others before you ever know you have measles.

“It usually begins as flat red spots that appear on the face at the hairline and spread downward to the neck, trunk, arms, legs, and feet. Small raised bumps may also appear on top of the flat red spots. The spots may become joined together as they spread from the head to the rest of the body.”

Measles Signs and Symptoms

While many diseases have a fever with or followed by a rash, it is very characteristic of measles that the fever continues for a few more days as the child develops the rash.

“You’ll usually feel most ill on the first or second day after the rash develops.”

Measles Symptoms

This is when most kids get diagnosed, typically with laboratory confirmation.

Unfortunately, because of the high fever and irritability, they may have sought medical attention a few times and could have exposed a lot of people already, especially as you continue to be contagious until you have had the rash for at least four days.

“After a few days, the fever subsides and the rash fades.”

Measles Signs and Symptoms

All together, these classic measles symptoms typically last about a week. As the rash fades, parents might notice staining and then a fine desquamation (skin peeling).

Of course, if any complications develop, the symptoms can last much longer.

What complications? Remember, measles was once called a harmless killer

Complications of measles can include:

  • ear infections
  • diarrhea
  • croup
  • pneumonia
  • seizures
  • encephalitis
  • myocarditis

And tragically, some kids don’t survive having measles.

“Furthermore, the risk of contracting other infections or dying remains high for several months after recovery from acute measles infection.”

Treating Measles in Children

And although most do survive the acute infection, we know that these kids are still at risk for getting other infections in the next few months and are at a later risk for SSPE.

Get vaccinated. Stop the outbreaks. There is no good reason that our kids should have to get measles today.

More on the Signs and Symptoms of Measles

About Those Vaccine Strains in Measles Outbreaks…

A lot happens to control and contain a measles outbreak these days.

For one thing, you have to confirm that everyone with measles symptoms actually has measles. If you miss anyone, because measles is so contagious, then they could expose other people and the outbreak will keep getting bigger.

How do they confirm who has measles and who doesn’t?

While you could just make a clinical diagnosis, simply relying on the person’s history and pattern of symptoms, typically everyone just gets tested.

About Those Vaccine Strains in Measles Outbreaks…

What kind of testing?

“Laboratory confirmation is essential for all sporadic measles cases and all outbreaks. Detection of measles-specific IgM antibody and measles RNA by real-time polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) are the most common methods for confirming measles infection. Healthcare providers should obtain both a serum sample and a throat swab (or nasopharyngeal swab) from patients suspected to have measles at first contact with them. Urine samples may also contain virus, and when feasible to do so, collecting both respiratory and urine samples can increase the likelihood of detecting measles virus.”

Measles For Healthcare Professionals

It depends, but often a throat swab or a throat swab and urine are collected for PCR testing, especially if it has been 7 or fewer days since the patient came down with their rash.

If it has been longer than 7 days, then testing using urine and blood specimens can be performed.

“Molecular analysis can also be conducted to determine the genotype of the measles virus. Genotyping is used to map the transmission pathways of measles viruses. The genetic data can help to link or unlink cases and can suggest a source for imported cases. Genotyping is the only way to distinguish between wild-type measles virus infection and a rash caused by a recent measles vaccination.”

Measles For Healthcare Professionals

Because many people get vaccinated during an outbreak and a rash and fever is a side effect of the MMR vaccine, testing becomes very important in those who were recently vaccinated.

Statistics from the 2015 Disneyland measles outbreak...
Statistics from the 2015 Disneyland measles outbreak. Anti-vaccine folks, this slide doesn’t mean what you think it means.

After getting vaccinated, testing helps confirm that someone has vaccine strain measles and not wild type, a vaccine reaction, and don’t actually have measles.

“Here, we describe a real-time reverse transcription-PCR (RT-PCR) method that detects the vaccine genotype (MeVA RT-quantitative PCR [RT-qPCR]) and that can provide rapid discrimination between wild-type-virus infections and vaccine reactions.”

Roy et al on Rapid Identification of Measles Virus Vaccine Genotype by Real-Time PCR

An no, the vaccine reaction is not that they developed measles! They developed a rash and/or fever, a common side effect of the MMR vaccine.

“During outbreaks, measles vaccine is administered to help control the outbreak, and in these situations, vaccine reactions may be mistakenly classified as measles cases.”

CDC on Genetic Analysis of Measles Viruses

So the reports that you might have seen that 31 people in the California measles outbreak had a vaccine strain of measles aren’t true. There were at least 31 people who were recently vaccinated during the outbreak and had a rash and/or fever, and they tested positive for the vaccine strain, proving that they weren’t actually part of the outbreak. None of them actually had measles though.

Has anyone ever gotten the measles after being vaccinated?

“Vaccine‐associated measles is a possible, but extremely rare event.”

Sood et al on Vaccine‐associated measles in an immunocompetent child

Yes, there are a few case reports.

Very rare case reports.

Who's to blame for low immunization rates and continuing outbreaks?
Who’s to blame for low immunization rates and continuing outbreaks?

We know who’s responsible for the rise in measles outbreaks and no, it ain’t folks who have recently been vaccinated. Vaccines are safe and necessary.

Get vaccinated. Stop the outbreaks.

More on Vaccine Strains in Measles Outbreaks

What Are Anti-Vaccine Folks Saying About the Measles Outbreaks?

If your kids are intentionally not vaccinated and you live in an area where there is a big measles outbreak, then you are hopefully saying, “where can I get an MMR for my child.”

There were 23 measles cases in Orange County in 2014 and an additional 35 cases in 2015.

And you hope that your “vaccine friendly” pediatrician has vaccines and will actually vaccinate your kids…

What Are Anti-Vaccine Folks Saying About the Measles Outbreaks?

And while many parents change their minds and ending up vaccinating their kids when faced with an outbreak, you likely won’t be surprised about what some folks think or say during an outbreak of measles.

Actually, the CDC said that there was no ongoing, single, multi-state outbreak of measles. Instead, there were lots and lots of little outbreaks.

Yes, these are the things anti-vaccine folks say to try and reassure themselves that they made a good decision to intentionally leave their kids unvaccinated and at risk for a life-threatening disease. One that their kids are even more at risk of getting, because there is an outbreak in their community.

Of course, most folks in measles outbreaks are unvaccinated. It isn’t spread by those who are vaccinated.
And these outbreaks are never caused by shedding or a vaccine strain of measles.
Reporting about outbreaks to help get them under control is not media hysteria. And yes, measles made the headlines in the pre-vaccine era.
That’s because measles didn’t kill everyone who got sick. But there were about 500 measles deaths each year in the United States in the pre-vaccine era. Those folks all had stories, whether or not you ever heard them.
Vitamin A as a treatment for measles is typically helpful if you have a vitamin deficiency. It is probably not going to be very helpful in a developed country.
And yet measles was referred to as a harmless killer, because while many kids didn’t recover, others died or had complications, like encephalitis.
Measles is not a deadly disease if you don’t ever get it. And are you really not going to vaccinate your kids because the Brady Bunch had an episode about the measles?
This copypasta links to a post that left out the part of the article that told folks to get vaccinated…
God I hope that measles parties aren’t going to become a thing.
What scares folks about measles? Anti-vaccine misinformation about vaccines.

While you’re researching measles, do a little research about vaccines too.

Yes, a woman who got caught up in the 2015 measles outbreaks in Washington died.
Yes, a woman who got caught up in the 2015 measles outbreaks in Washington died.

Your kids will feel better if they are vaccinated and protected and don’t have measles.

More on What Anti-Vaccine Folks Are Saying About the Measles Outbreaks

The Pacific Northwest Measles Outbreak of 2019

Breaking News – There are 2 new cases in Clark County (70 cases), bringing the total case count to 75 cases.

It started with a confirmed case of measles in a child in late December.

The Pacific Northwest measles outbreak on 2019 started when a child exposed others in the area in late December.

There were soon reports of more cases.

The Clark County measles outbreak quickly grew.

And more cases.

The Pacific Northwest Measles Outbreak of 2019

But the measles cases didn’t stay in Clark County.

Two of the unvaccinated kids from Clark County traveled to Hawaii while they were contagious.
Two of the unvaccinated kids from Clark County traveled to Hawaii while they were contagious.

As with other recent large measles outbreaks, cases soon spread to neighboring counties.

As of late January, there are now measles cases linked to this ongoing outbreak in Clark County and King County (Washington) and Multnomah County (Oregon).

The rapid growth of the outbreak led Clark County to declare a local public health emergency and Washington’ governor to declare a State of Emergency in all counties in the state of Washington.

“The measles outbreak and its effects impact the life and health of our people, as well as the economy of Washington State, and is a public disaster that affects life, health, property or the public peace.”

Governor Jay Inslee on proclaiming a State of Emergency

Why so much concern?

Are you familiar with the immunization rates in this part of the country? About the only good thing you can say about Washington’s immunization rates are that they are better than Oregon‘s…

Washington has one of the highest rates of exemptions in the United States.

That’s right.

High non-medical vaccine exemption rates and low vaccination rates. A recipe for very large outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases, especially measles which is so highly contagious.

Immunization rates by county in Washington.

And a recipe for disaster. These outbreaks are getting harder to control, are lasting longer, and are getting bigger and bigger.

Also remember that the last measles death in the United States, in 2015, was a woman who got caught up in a measles outbreak in Clallam County. Why didn’t that trigger folks in the area to get Vaccinated?

Pacific Northwest Measles Outbreak of 2019
Clark County (WA)70 cases
King County (WA)1 case
Multonomah County (OR)4 case
 75 cases

How many of them are vaccinated? Anti-vaccine folks are pushing hard to convince folks that everyone in the outbreaks are vaccinated. Don’t believe them!

As in most outbreaks, almost all of the people in this outbreak are unvaccinated.

How many people will get sick in the Pacific Northwest Measles Outbreak of 2019 before it ends?

You will have to make an extra appointment if you followed his immunization plan and left your kids unvaccinated and at risk during this outbreak.
You will have to make an extra appointment if you followed his immunization plan and left your kids unvaccinated and at risk during this outbreak.

Are parents going to keep listening to anti-vaccine folks who push the idea that measles isn’t that bad and make you think that it is riskier to get vaccinated?

Are they going to realize that unless they are malnourished or have a vitamin deficiency, that taking extra vitamin A that you order from someone’s online store will not reduce their risk of severe complications if their unvaccinated child gets measles?

“Please contact your pediatrician or doctor if your child is scary sick, struggling to breathe or unable to eat or very lethargic or otherwise seriously ill. Let them know you are worried they may have measles so they can arrange not to contaminate the waiting room or the whole office.”

Paul Thomas, Integrative Pediatrician

Getting vaccinated can help keep your kids from getting “scary sick” from measles…

“The above recommendations are informational only. Please consult with your doctor before implementing anything you might learn here.”

Paul Thomas, Integrative Pediatrician

The only good advice he gives.

Anti-vaccine misinformation has gotten us to the place where these outbreaks are becoming more common. Vaccinate your kids so they don’t get measles and don’t expose anyone else.

And for the anti-vaccine folks who are asking:

  • it isn’t going to be shedding or a vaccine strain that caused the outbreak
  • everyone or almost everyone in the outbreak is going to be unvaccinated
  • the measles vaccine does work against all the different genotypes of measles
  • more people don’t die from getting the MMR or any other vaccine than from the diseases they protect us against
  • whether the death rate of measles is 1 in 1000 or 1 in 10,000 cases, remember that just before the measles vaccine came out, in the early 1960s, nearly 500 people would die of measles each year. And it isn’t that a person dies after 1,000 or 10,000 cases. With more cases, there is just a higher chance that someone will eventually die.

And you are still worried about the MMR vaccine because anti-folks are still scaring you away from vaccinating and protecting your kids.

Vaccines are safe and necessary with few risks. There is no good reason that we should still have outbreaks like this.

More on The Pacific Northwest Measles Outbreak of 2019

Updated March 3, 2019

How Often Should You Do Vaccine Titer Testing?

We sometimes hear about folks doing vaccine titer testing.

A vaccine titer is a blood test that can determine whether or not you are immune to a disease after you get a vaccine.

While that sounds good, after all, why not check and be sure, it has downsides. Chief among them is that the results aren’t always accurate.

That’s right. You can sometimes have a negative titer test, but still be immune because of memory B cells and the anamnestic response.

How Often Should You Do Vaccine Titer Testing?

So how often should you do vaccine titer testing?

It depends, but most folks might never have it done!

Why not?

Vaccines work very well, so you would typically not need to routinely check and confirm that you are immune after being vaccinated. And, this is also important, the vaccine titer tests don’t always work that well, titer testing isn’t available for all vaccines (you can’t do titer testing for Hib and pertussis), and the testing can be expensive.

So we usually just do the testing (a quantitative titer) for folks that are in high risk situations, including:

  • pregnancy – rubella titer only (HBsAg is also done, but that’s not a vaccine titer test, but rather to see if you are chronically infected with hepatitis B)
  • healthcare workers – anti-HBs (antibody to the hepatitis B surface antigen to confirm immunity after being vaccinated)
  • students in nursing school and medical school, etc. – anti-HBs
  • children and adults exposed in an outbreakmeasles, chicken pox, mumps, etc., but only if we are unsure if they were previously vaccinated and protected
  • after a needlestick injury, etc. – to confirm immunity to hepatitis B
  • babies born to a mother with hepatitis B – to confirm that their hepatitis B vaccine worked

Vaccine titer testing might also be done for:

  • internationally adopted children – to confirm that they are immune if we unsure about all of the vaccines the child got in other countries
  • children and adults with lost vaccine records – to confirm that they are immune, since we are unsure about all of the vaccines they got
  • evaluation of children and adults with immune system problems – to help identify what immune system problems they might have – typically involves checking pneumococcal titers, giving Prevnar, and then checking pneumococcal titers again
  • people at continuous or frequent risk for rabies – rabies titer testing every 6 months to 2 years
  • patients with inflammatory bowel disease, before starting immunosuppressive therapy – hepatitis A and hepatitis B titers, as they might be at increased risk for hepatitis

While checking titers is easy, it is sometimes harder to know what to do with the results you get.

Of all of these different titers, only one tells you that you are immune due to vaccination.
Of all of these different titers, only one tells you that you are immune due to vaccination.

It is especially important to know that:

  • most people don’t need to have their titers checked routinely if they are not in one of the high-risk groups noted above
  • it isn’t practical to get titers tested as a method of potentially skipping one or more doses of your child’s vaccines, after all, if the titer is negative, then you are still going to have to get vaccinated
  • a healthcare provider with a negative measles titer after two doses of the MMR vaccine does not need another dose of vaccine
  • a healthcare provider who has anti-HBs <10 mIU/mL (negative titer) after three doses of the hepatitis B vaccine should get another dose of vaccine and repeat testing in 1 to 2 months – if still <10 mIU/mL, they should then get two more doses of hepatitis B vaccine (for a total of 6 doses) and repeat testing. If still negative, these documented nonresponders will need HBIG as post-exposure prophylaxis for any future hepatitis B exposures, but no further doses of hepatitis B vaccine.
  • vaccinated women of childbearing age who have received one or two doses of rubella-containing vaccine and have rubella serum IgG levels that is not clearly positive should be administered one additional dose of MMR vaccine, with a maximum of three doses, and should not be tested again
  • postvaccination titer testing is not recommended after the chicken pox vaccine
  • in addition to not being able to test titers for pertussis and Hib immunity, it is becoming difficult to test poliovirus type 2 titers, as the test uses a live virus that isn’t routinely available anymore (type 2 polio has been eradicated)

Still think you need vaccine titer testing?

More on Vaccine Titer Testing