The Vermont Health Department is telling health care providers to be on the lookout for measles because it’s been reported in 18 states this year.
In the past decade, there has been only one reported case of measles in Vermont, and the last outbreak was in 1993 when there were 31 documented cases.
Patsy Kelso is the state epidemiologist at the Vermont Health Department.
“It’s important for everybody to be aware that measles is around in the U.S.,” said Kelso. “And we’re seeing more cases this year than we’ve seen in the last couple of decades in the U.S. because people are traveling and being exposed to measles overseas and then coming back here.”
Kelso wants Vermonters to understand that measles is a highly contagious disease that’s easily transmitted from one individual to another. Approximately nine out of every ten susceptible people with close contact to a measles patient will develop the disease.
“Measles is one of the most infectious diseases and it can be transmitted to people for up to two hours after a person with measles leaves the room,” said Kelso. “The virus can still be spread to people who come into that room.”
Kelso recommends that children be given two doses of the MMR vaccine, which includes measles immunization. The first should be administered when the child is between 12 and 15 months old, and the second between the ages of four and six.
Recent surveys conducted by the Vermont Health Department indicate that roughly 93 percent of all students entering kindergarten have received their proper shots.
Kelso says that’s important because the MMR vaccine is very effective.
“MMR vaccine has been around for a long time and it’s about 95 percent effective,” said Kelso. “So if people are fully up to date on their vaccines they should be protected in case they happen to be exposed to a case.”
Kelso says it’s also important to make health care providers aware of the possibility of an outbreak of measles so that any potential cases are accurately diagnosed.
“We do have health care providers in Vermont who have never treated a case of measles,” said Kelso. “So we’re preparing an advisory, a routine advisory that will go to Vermont health care providers to make them aware of the situation nationally and what our neighboring states are seeing in particular to remind them to suspect measles when people present with relevant symptoms.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control, two New England states have reported cases of measles this year, Connecticut and Massachusetts.