There are many articles in the press about measles lately, and for good reason. This preventable disease has taken off again due to lower than ideal vaccination rates globally, causing a significant risk to those vulnerable to the infection. Not everyone can be vaccinated against measles – infants, patients on immune suppressing medications, pregnant women and people without working spleens are among those who rely on herd immunity (that is, everyone else being vaccinated) to protect them.
Getting measles is not just a rash. It is one of the more miserable infectious diseases, with possible serious complications of permanent blindness, brain damage, pneumonia and death. The problem with measles is that by the time you develop the characteristic rash you have been infectious for up to 10 days, and it is highly contagious. Measles is so contagious you can catch it just from breathing the air in a room occupied hours ago by someone with the disease.
In those who can be vaccinated it is easily prevented by making sure you have had two doses of the MMR vaccination (or MMRV in infants). This works literally 99% of the time to give you immunity. It is on the routine schedule for children starting at age 12 months (but can be given earlier in some circumstances, ask your GP). If you have not had the measles vaccination your GP can easily arrange for you to have it ‘caught-up’ with a government-funded vaccination. If you were born prior to 1966 you have probably been exposed to measles as a child and so likely don’t require vaccination. If you are in any doubt have a chat to your GP, who in some cases will order a blood test to see if you are immune (especially important if you are in a household with a person vulnerable to measles).
- Check your vaccination history and catch it up if needed
- If you are planning a pregnancy, check in with your GP about routine check-ups prior to trying to fall pregnant (as you are can’t have the vaccination once you are trying to fall pregnant)
- If you have a fever and a rash always disclose this to medical reception staff prior to attending a medical clinic, so we can protect our staff and patients from potentially fatal diseases
Dr Cath Hester and Dr Tony Bayliss
These articles are not intended to replace a one-to-one relationship with a qualified health professional or as specific medical advice. They are intended as a sharing of knowledge and information from experience and research in the scientific literature. I encourage you to make your own health care decisions based upon a partnership with a qualified health care professional.