Endemic measles was eliminated in the United States following the introduction of the measles vaccine over forty years ago; the MMR vaccine was licensed in 1971. However, the disease still remains a threat as more parents are refusing to vaccinate their children. Ultimately, it is essential that vaccination coverage remains high so that measles does not become endemic once again. Although vaccination coverage is around 90 percent nationwide, according to the National Immunization Survey, fifteen states had coverage below this number confined of course to those states with so-called philosophical exemptions from mandated vaccinations, allowing parents to opt out of getting their kids vaccinated with the stroke of a pen.
Due to the fact that measles has essentially been eliminated in the U.S., many providers are not familiar with the symptoms of the disease, and may therefore be putting other individuals at risk of contracting measles in a medical facility. Physicians should be hyper aware of those patients who have been traveling outside of the United States and who present with a rash. Furthermore, physicians should know the characteristic symptoms of the disease which are fever, cough, coryza (inflammation of the mucous membrane in the nose) and conjunctivitis. They should also be familiar with the characteristic rash which accompanies measles, beginning on the face and then spreading downwards, as well as knowing to look for the presence of Koplik spots, which are small, bluish-white spots on the skin or mucous membranes.
Patients should be encouraged to call ahead should they suspect measles to ensure that appropriate precautions can be taken by the medical facility, since the measles virus can very easily be spread from one person to another. Upon arrival, patient should be isolated. Furthermore, and perhaps most importantly, physicians need to continue to remind their patients of the importance of receiving the MMR vaccine by reminding them of the consequences of not being vaccinated.
ACSH s Dr. Elizabeth Whelan had this comment: It is certainly imperative that physicians are made aware of the telltale symptoms of measles as this can help prevent the spread of the disease. However, what it really comes down to is that physicians need to educate their patients as to the benefits of vaccinating their children so that we can prevent these outbreaks in the first place.