Marla Ahlgrimm: A Q&A About Measles

Marla AhlgrimmRecently, Ohio reported its first case the measles in more than two years. According to Marla Ahlgrimm, this is telling of the recent measles outbreak and is something to keep an eye on. Here, the women’s health author answers your most pressing question about the measles.

Q: What is the measles?

Marla Ahlgrimm: Measles is a viral infection. For healthy adults, it poses very few long-term issues. However, children and the elderly can get very sick or even die if they contract the measles. This condition usually shows up in the form of a highly noticeable rash coupled with painful muscles, fatigue, headache, diarrhea, and cold-like symptoms.

Q: Hasn’t the measles been eradicated?

Marla Ahlgrimm: Until recently, measles was virtually unheard of in the United States. While it is still considered rare – less than 1,000 cases per year – people choosing to forgo vaccines for their children have contributed to its return. Prior to 1963, when the vaccine was first introduced in the US, up to 4 million people each year got the measles. Hundreds of these died and thousands were hospitalized. It should also be noted that people traveling from outside of the United States can bring the measles virus with them without even knowing it.

Q: I’ve been vaccinated. Am I protected?

Marla Ahlgrimm: If you have received all of your vaccinations, you have about a 3% chance of coming down with measles if you are exposed. Fortunately, you will almost certainly have what is considered a mild case and will be less likely to spread the virus to other people.

Q: Can everyone get vaccinated?

Marla Ahlgrimm: Not everyone. Schoolchildren are typically given two doses of the measles vaccine. They are then considered vaccinated for life with no booster shots required. However, some people with a weakened immune system and very young babies may not be able to receive the vaccine.

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