Taking Precautions Against Measles

After health officials confirmed a case of measles in an Orange County preschooler last Friday – the first local case in 17 years – authorities are spreading the word on what to do if you haven’t received your measles shot. People who have received their routine measles vaccination as children will have immunity and, in most cases, will be protected from an outbreak. But if you hadn't received your measles shot, you may want to take these precautions.

Measles is usually not fatal. The preschooler is still at home and recovering, according to Orange County Health Department spokesman Dain Weister.

But those who have not been vaccinated against measles should take further precautions. Health officials say these people should refrain from attending school, childcare centers and work until the end of this week - when the incubation period for the disease will end.

You may also want to keep a lookout for measles symptoms, which generally begin about 7 to 14 days after a person is infected. These include :

• Blotchy rash •  Fever •  Cough •  Runny nose •  Red, watery eyes (conjunctivitis) •  Feeling run down, achy (malaise) •  Tiny white spots with bluish-white centers found inside the mouth

Measles is spread through the air by infectious droplets and is highly contagious. It can be transmitted from 4 days before the rash becomes visible to 4 days after the rash appears.

Health officials remind parents that the best way to protect their children is to make sure they are immunized against measles by the combination MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella) vaccine. Children should receive two doses: The first at 12 to 15 months of age, and the second at four to six years of age.

Health Department spokesman Weister said he's not exactly sure why Orange County is seeing a measles case now.

"The thought is that fewer people are getting vaccinated with all the immunizations they need," Weister said. "There have been other outbreaks in other parts of the nation and in Europe, because of travel, that can add to it as well." [HealthyState.org]