Measles in Maine means half of states now report cases

Maine health officials confirmed the first case of measles in the state, bringing the total number of states reporting the highly contagious viral disease to 25.

The United States is facing the largest number of measles cases in a single year, with 880 individual cases confirmed in 24 states between Jan. 1 and May 17, 2019, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported earlier this week. Measles was declared eliminated in the U.S. in 2000.

States reporting measles cases this year are Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, Tennessee, and Washington.

It’s not known where the school-aged child from Somerset County, Maine, became exposed to the disease, according to the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention. The child had been vaccinated and is now fully recovered from the disease. State health authorities have posted a list of times and locations where people may have been exposed to measles.

Fever, cough, runny nose and red, watery eyes followed by a rash that spreads from the head down are all symptoms of measles. The disease can cause severe health complications including pneumonia, encephalitis (brain swelling), and death. The length of time from exposure to the onset of symptoms is typically 10-14 days but can be as long as 21 days.

People sick with measles can spread the disease by coughing, touching or even leaving germs behind on surfaces. They are contagious beginning four days before their rash starts and lasting until four days after the rash ends. Anyone with symptoms should contact their health provider and ask for instructions before arriving at the point of care to prevent passing the disease to anyone else.

The recommended two doses of the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine are about 97% effective at preventing measles, while one dose is about 93% effective. About 3 out of 100 people who get both doses of vaccine will get measles if exposed to the virus. However, they are more likely to have a milder illness, and less likely to spread the disease to other people, according to the CDC.

Anyone potentially exposed to measles should review their vaccine history.

Babies who have had a first dose of the MMR at 12 months to 15 months do not need to wait until age 4 for that second dose if they are living in an area with an ongoing outbreak or traveling to one; rather, babies should get the second dose anytime after 28 days from the first vaccination, according to the CDC. Adults born before 1957 are assumed to have had measles and are therefore immune and don’t need to be vaccinated. Anyone born during or after that year should get at least one dose of MMR if they lack evidence of having had measles or having received the vaccine.

Vaccination has reduced measles deaths by 80% since 2000, and more than 21 million lives have been saved across the globe, according to the CDC.

Outbreaks continue to occur around the world, while the potential to spread the contagious disease from region to region remains. A case in point: New York state has reported 606 cases of measles in 2019, with New York City and Rockland County epicenters of disease. Both locations are home to Orthodox Jewish communities that have been reporting an increasing number of cases since October. The outbreak began when an unvaccinated child traveled to Israel and returned home with the highly contagious disease, New York City health officials stated.

That child infected others, and the number of cases grew. An infected person from New York visited Detroit and unknowingly spread the virus, which led to an outbreak in Michigan. State health officials in Connecticut said one case there was a resident who had visited New York.