AUGUSTA, Maine — The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention (Maine CDC) is encouraging all Mainers to get vaccinated against measles as cases of the highly contagious illness continue to appear throughout the U.S.
Reported cases nationwide for the first two months of 2019 were greater than 200, the CDC says. Outbreaks occurred in four of 11 states reporting cases.
No cases of measles have been reported in Maine this year. The state's last case was in 2017 in which an individual acquired it traveling overseas.
Measles' spread stateside is typically started when travelers bring the highly contagious disease back after becoming infected traveling overseas in areas where large measles outbreaks are occurring. The disease remains common in many parts of the world, including in Europe, Asia, the Pacific and Africa.
Facts about measles from Maine CDC:
- Highly contagious
- Early symptoms: fever, cough, runny nose, red eyes
- Rash appears about 14 days after exposure
- Can lead to pneumonia, encephalitis and death
- Spread through coughs or sneezes
- Virus can live up to 2 hours in air or on surfaces
- 90% of non-immune near infected will contract
- Spread period: 4 days before, 4 days after rash appears
"The best protection against measles is vaccination," said Dr. Siiri Bennett, Maine State Epidemiologist. "Most people who get measles are unvaccinated. Immunization helps protect you, your family, and your community from this dangerous and largely preventable virus."
CDC considers you protected from measles if you have written documentation or records showing at least one of the following:
- You received two doses of measles-containing vaccine, and you're either a school-aged child, grades K-12, or an adult who will be in a setting that poses a high risk for measles transmission
- You received one dose of measles-containing vaccine, and you're either a preschool-aged child or an adult who will not be in a high-risk setting for measles transmission
- A lab confirmed you had measles at some point in your life
- A lab confirmed you are immune to measles
- You were born before 1957
The Measles, Mumps, and Rubella (MMR) vaccine provides long-lasting protection against all strains of measles and is scientifically proven to be safe and effective, according to Maine CDC. Two doses are about 97 percent effective in prevention while one dose is about 93 percent effective.
In the cases where fully vaccinated people get measles, Maine CDC says they're more likely to have a milder illness with less chance to spread.
The MMR vaccine is readily available throughout Maine. All children up to 18 years of age, regardless of insurance, can get the vaccine at no cost.
If symptoms are present, contact your doctor immediately.
Make sure you're vaccinated before traveling outside the U.S.
Here's how you can track down vaccination records or documentation.