FORT LEE, Va. - Those planning to travel out-of-state or abroad this summer need to be aware of the outbreak of measles the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is tracking in several countries and across the U.S. The best way individuals can protect themselves and their families is to get vaccinated, Kenner Army Health Clinic officials advise.
From Jan. 1 to April 26, 704 individual cases of measles have been confirmed in 22 states, according to the CDC. This is the greatest number of incidents reported in the U.S. since 1994 and since measles was declared eliminated in 2000.
“There are no cases in Virginia associated with this measles outbreak,” said Stephen Pinkerton, Kenner’s public health emergency officer. “However, that does not mean there is no reason for concern. The number of active cases in the U.S. is growing every week and Tennessee, Kentucky and Maryland all have had active cases and each one of them share a border with Virginia.”
Measles symptoms start with a fever, runny nose, cough, red eyes and sore throat. It’s followed by a rash that spreads over the body.
“Measles is extremely contagious, and can be serious, especially for young children,” Pinkerton said. “It spreads through the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes. One can get measles being near someone who has the virus. A person can even catch measles four days before an infected person has their measles rash. Almost everyone who is not immune will get measles if they are exposed to the virus. Measles, also called rubella, is a leading cause of death among children worldwide.”
The vast majority of people who get measles are unvaccinated, CDC officials also emphasize on their website. Measles is still common in many parts of the world, which further exacerbates the spread of the disease as travelers bring it into the states or contract it during an overseas visit and carry it back home.
Within the military, vaccinations are given to service members during basic training. Occasionally, inoculations may be administered prior to deployments or reassignments to areas where the risk of measles is high. Dependents, regardless of service affiliation, who use military medical facilities, Tricare services or military child care must comply with AR 40-562.
In compliance with DOD policy, Military Departments will use the first-available vaccine doses to preserve operational effectiveness, and protect the most vulnerable populations by immunizing military units that are deployed or will deploy, and other DoD personnel who represent or support critical missions, as well as high risk groups listed in the most current recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices.
“It is important to get your childvaccinated now,” Pinkerton emphasized. “If you as a parent have not been vaccinated, get it done.”
Those who didn’t get the measles vaccine as a child probably need to get it as an adult, the CDC similarly recommends. In general, anyone age 18 and older who was born after 1956 and has not received at least one dose of the measles vaccine should be immunized. Those unsure of whether they have been vaccinated have only one reasonable course of action, the CDC noted, which is to see their health care provider and get the shot.
“Lastly, if you think your child has the measles, contact your health care provider immediately to schedule an exam and treatment,” Pinkerton said. “You may have to use a separate entrance than other patients because the disease is so contagious. Our staff can assist you with the best safeguards, so call and come in as soon as possible to receive the care that’s needed.”
Call Tricare at 1-866-533-5242 to make an appointment. Your health team is can assist with determining your immunity to measles or getting vaccinated.