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Close up of a child's chest with measles

Measles Update: What Parents Need to Know

By Dr. Douglas Mitchell, Norfolk Pediatrics

The worst measles outbreak in the US in 25 years is still growing. As of mid-May, The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported 880 cases in 25 states. No cases have been reported in Virginia yet, but as families travel more in the summer, it’s especially important that your child is fully immunized against the measles.

Local pediatricians from CHKD Medical Group are reaching out to parents of children who are overdue for vaccinations that protect children from measles, mumps, and rubella, known as the MMR vaccine.

Two doses are recommended, one at 12 to 15 months of age, and the other between 4 and 6 years of age. Parents and caregivers are encouraged to make sure their children have been fully vaccinated.

CHKD doctors also want to inform families about what to do if they think their child might have the measles. If your child shows symptoms of measles such as fever, cough, inflammation of the nose and eyes, and a flat or raised red rash, please call your pediatrician’s office for advice before leaving home. Don’t rush to the doctor, urgent care or ER, where your child could infect many others. Illnesses like the measles can be especially risky for patients with weak immune systems, such as children who are receiving chemotherapy for cancer treatment.

A call to your pediatrician’s office will inform you what to do, and where to go if testing or treatment are recommended. Since measles is spread through the air, please make sure your child wears one of the masks that CHKD provides in all facilities to help prevent the spread of contagious illnesses.

These facts from the CDC show how important it is to protect children through vaccination, and to take precautions if you think your child might have measles:

  • Measles is so contagious that if one person has it, 90 percent of the people close to that person who are not immune will also become infected.
  • When a person with measles sneezes or coughs, the virus can hang in the air for up to two hours.
  • Infected people can spread the virus four days before they have a rash or even know they have the disease.

Measles starts with a very high fever, followed by a red or brownish rash. Children will also experience cold-like symptoms before the rash appears, such as a cough, runny nose, and red, watery eyes. Measles is a serious, potentially life-threatening disease that can lead to pneumonia, encephalitis, blindness, and in some cases deafness.

It’s especially important to have your child vaccinated if they’ll be traveling abroad. Measles is still common in other parts of the world, especially Europe, Asia, the Pacific, and Africa. The disease spreads quickly in areas where people are not vaccinated, and children who are not vaccinated are at a higher risk of being infected.

Vaccines are covered by most insurance plans. If you don’t have insurance or your insurance plan doesn’t cover it, the Vaccines for Children Program may be able to help.

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About CHKD Medical Group

About CHKD Medical  Group Children’s Hospital of The King’s Daughters has been the region’s most trusted name in pediatric care for more than 50 years. As members of CHKD Health System, our pediatricians work closely with CHKD’s full range of pediatric specialists and surgeons. They also share a commitment to quality, excellence and child-centered care. With 18 practices in 29 locations throughout the region, a CHKD pediatrician is never far.