Measles is a highly contagious viral illness. The measles virus lives in the nose and throat mucous of an infected person and is spread to others through coughing and sneezing. The measles virus can live on surfaces or remain suspended in the air for up to two hours. If a person breathes the contaminated air or touches an infected surface and then their eyes, nose or mouth they can become infected. Measles is so contagious that if exposed 90% of non-immune people will become infected.
The measles illness begins with fever, coughing, a runny nose and conjunctivitis (pink eye). Two to four days later the rash appears. Measles often causes diarrhea, and ear infections that can result in permanent hearing loss. More serious complications include pneumonia and encephalitis (swelling of the brain), convulsions, and even death.
Measles had been declared eliminated in the United States in 2000 due to the success of the two dose measles vaccine. Its reappearance is attributed to international travelers who import the virus from other parts of the world where measles is endemic, and an upswing in parents choosing not to immunize their children.
School community members are urged to check with their physician and their child’s physician to insure they are adequately immunized or have acceptable evidence of immunity. For questions or concerns please contact your school nurse. For additional information on the measles visit http://www.cdc.gov/measles/