Common Measles Questions Answered

As the number of confirmed measles cases grows in Southern California, NBC4’s Dr. Bruce Hensel answers common questions about the disease:

Q: What is the measles?
Dr. Bruce: Measles is a disease caused by a virus. Symptoms include fever, sore throat, cough, sneezing and a typical red rash.

Q: Why are we seeing more cases now?
Dr. Bruce: At one point, measles was eradicated from America, but we are seeing more cases now simply because people have failed to get the needed vaccine and/or booster.

Q: I was born in 1956. Do I need a vaccine?
Dr. Bruce: Probably not. The CDC says anyone born before 1957 either had or was exposed to the measles and is likely immune for life.

Q: I had one vaccine, but have not had the booster. Am I at least a little protected?
Dr. Bruce: Probably not. It is important to have both the initial vaccine and the booster to be protected.

Q: Is it true that someone could spread the measles even before he or she knows they have it?
Dr. Bruce: Yes! This is one of the biggest reasons I advise people to get the vaccine. You are contagious 3 - 4 days before symptoms start to show, and again for 4 days after the symptoms appear.

Q: How easily is it spread?
Dr. Bruce: Very easily. Measles is one of the most contagious diseases. It can be spread through the air or by direct contact

Q: If I was in the market that was mentioned, am I at risk?
Dr. Bruce: There is a small risk because it can live in the air. But if you entered the market long after the infected person was there, you are probably safe.

Q: How do I know the difference between measles and chicken pox?
Dr. Bruce: There are a lot of differences.

  • Chicken pox rashes “crust” so they are irregular and can scar. A measles rash is flat and red.
  • A measles rash starts on the face and trunk; chicken pox starts on the arms and legs.
  • Measles is much more severe, causing sore throat and high fevers as well as rash.
  • Once you have the measles you are immune for life.
  • Chicken pox can return as shingles.

Q: If I think I have the measles, what should I do?
Dr. Bruce: Call your doctor before you head into the office or go anyplace you might spread it.
There is no specific treatment. Fluids, fever control, isolation and rest are the best steps.

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