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Measles (Rubeola)

Measles in Alaska - 2019

Update 9/6/19:

A single case of measles was confirmed by DHSS on July 16, 2019 in an unvaccinated teenager who is a resident of the Kenai Peninsula, Alaska, and recently traveled out of state.

It has been at least 42 days or two incubation periods since the last confirmed case of measles in Alaska.  The state is not currently in outbreak status, but measles is still circulating globally and we could still see more cases in Alaska.  Health care providers shoud report suspected measles cases immediately by calling the State of Alaska, Section of Epidemiology at (907) 269-8000 or (800) 478-0084 after hours.

Vaccination with the MMR (measles-mumps-rubella) vaccine continues to be our best defense to keep measles from spreading. Make sure you and your family are up-to-date with the MMR vaccine.

Protect yourself, your family and community from measles

A highly effective and safe vaccine has dramatically reduced measles cases and deaths worldwide. When enough people are vaccinated against measles, the entire community is less likely to get it. You can protect yourself, your family and others by keeping current with measles vaccine recommendations.

Children need two doses of MMR vaccine for best protection:

  • The first dose at 12 through 15 months of age

  • The second dose at 4 through 6 years of age

Adult recommendations:

Because the measles vaccine is long-lasting and effective, booster shots are not needed for adults who were vaccinated as children. However, there may be some special situations where revaccination is needed. Visit this CDC webpage to learn more: Measles, Mumps, and Rubella (MMR) Vaccination: What Everyone Should Know.

What if I suspect measles?

If you think you or someone in your family might have measles, call your health care provider or your local public health center immediately. It’s important to get care quickly, but make sure you call first and don’t go directly to your doctor’s office, clinic or school. Health care providers may have instructions to prevent exposing others to an infectious disease

Measles response in Alaska

Measles is a public health reportable condition in Alaska. Health care providers must report suspect cases immediately to the Alaska Section of Epidemiology at 907-269-8000.

Prior to 2019, the last confirmed case of measles in an Alaskan patient was diagnosed in 2015 in Fairbanks after almost 15 years with no measles cases. The patient had recently traveled to central Asia. Health care providers are reminded to always ask about travel history in patients with acute rash illness and be aware of measles as a possibility.

About Measles

Measles isn’t just a little rash. It’s a highly contagious viral respiratory illness that can be dangerous, especially for babies and young children. Each year around the world, an estimated 10 million people get measles, and about 110,000 of them die from it.

Know the symptoms

  • Measles symptoms begin to show 7-14 days after infection and typically begin with

    • High fever (may spike to more than 104°,

    • cough,

    • runny nose, and

    • red watery eyes

  • These initial symptoms are followed by

    • tiny white spots (Koplik spots) that may appear inside the mouth 2-3 days after symptoms begin, and

    • a red, blotchy rash that breaks out over most of the body 3-5 days after symptoms begin

Measles can be serious.

While measles typically clears up in about 4-6 days, it can cause serious health complications, especially in young children.

  • About 1 in 4 people in the U.S. who get measles will be hospitalized

  • 1 out of every 1,000 people with measles will develop brain swelling, which could lead to brain damage

  • 1 or 2 out of 1,000 people with measles will die, even with the best care

Measles is very contagious.

Measles spreads through the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes. It is so contagious that if one person has it, 9 out of 10 people around him or her will also become infected if they are not protected. A person can catch measles just by being in a room where a person with measles has been, even up to two hours after that person has left. An infected person can spread measles to others before he or she knows they have the disease — from four days before developing the measles rash through four days afterward.

Some people think of measles as just a little rash and fever that clears up in a few days, but measles can cause serious health complications, especially in children younger than five years of age. There is no way to tell in advance the severity of the symptoms.

Measles Surveillance