Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH) officials reported that the first case of measles in Iowa since 2011 was confirmed over the weekend. An unvaccinated individual from Northeastern Iowa contracted the disease while travelling internationally and has been cooperating with public health officials. At this time they have not reported any additional cases or threat to the public. Iowans are urged to ensure their vaccinations are up-to-date.
According to the IDPH, measles is one of the most contagious infections known to exist and is spread primarily through airborne droplets from an infected person’s cough or sneeze. An unvaccinated person who comes in contact with an infected person has a 90% chance of contracting the disease. Symptoms include cough, runny nose, red, watery eyes, nasal congestion, fever above 101 degrees, a flat red rash with raised bumps all over the body, and small spots with white or bluish-white centers on the inside of the cheeks. Symptoms begin to appear 7-21 days after being infected and the distinctive red rash usually appears about 14 days after being infected. Infected individuals may spread the disease for several days before the rash develops and for several days after. Symptoms usually worsen for several days and serious complications may occur, including pneumonia, swelling in the brain, middle ear infection, diarrhea, and potentially death.
The best way to prevent measles is to get vaccinated. Individuals typically receive a measles vaccine at 12 months of age and 4 years of age. It is often combined with the mumps and rubella vaccine (MMR). These two doses are very effective at preventing measles throughout life. There is no treatment for measles once an infection is established, but there are options to help protect those who have been recently exposed including vaccination within 72 hours of exposure and immune globulin treatment within 6 days of exposure.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) there have been at least 555 confirmed cases of measles in 20 other states so far in 2019 (as of April 11). This is the second-highest number of reported cases in the United States since measles was eliminated in 2000. The disease is often brought to the U.S. by unvaccinated individuals travelling abroad to countries where large outbreaks are occurring. They can be spread further among unvaccinated populations.
More information can be found at https://www.cdc.gov/measles/about/faqs.html.