Wellness

Measles in Shelby County: What Does it Mean for the Mid-South?

Apr 26 • 2016

The Shelby County Health Department has confirmed six cases of measles. We spoke with infectious disease doctor Steve Threlkeld about the symptoms of measles, the vaccine, and what else residents of the Mid-South should know.

Symptoms of Measles

One of the most important things to note is that people can be contagious before they get sick. There are multiple stages to measles, the first of which is a several-day incubation period when no symptoms will show. The next stage is a 2 to 4 day period called a prodrome that consists of symptoms like:

  • Stuffy nose
  • Watery eyes
  • Cough
  • Conjunctivitis (eye inflammation)
  • Fever that can be very high, even 105 degrees

“After the prodrome stage, one breaks out into a characteristic red rash that starts on the forehead area and spreads down from there,” said Dr. Threlkeld.

The Measles Vaccine

Many people received the MMR vaccine as a child, but it is important to remember that no vaccine is 100 percent effective.

“If you are not certain that you are adequately vaccinated, ask your doctor,” said Dr. Threlkeld. “If things are still uncertain, a blood test can be performed to determine whether or not you are immune. In general, people who have received two shots in the past and those born before 1957 are felt to be immune. If two shots are necessary as an adult, they should be given at least one month apart.”

The current measles outbreak is a reminder of the importance of vaccinations.

“We have forgotten how terrible these diseases were for previous generations,” said Dr. Threlkeld. “The vaccinations are safe and effective. To protect those who can’t be vaccinated, such as young children or people receiving chemotherapy, we have to have 95 percent coverage in the community. We’re putting those people and ourselves at risk if we don’t vaccinate our children.”

To find out more about measles, visit the CDC website.