With the measles outbreak continuing to grow across the US, people in Arizona are at great risk for catching the disease. Though there has only been one case in Arizona thus far out of the 700 reported, between the amount of international travelers visiting our state and the lower immunity rates, especially among children, health officials say it is only a matter of time before another person becomes sick along with the strong possibility of having a wider outbreak in our community.

Widespread Immunity Forms a Protective Barrier

Whenever a critical mass of people in a population are vaccinated against a disease, typically 95%, it is difficult for a disease to get a foothold and spread. The mass immunity forms a protective barrier for those who can’t get the vaccine shot due to their young age or various health issues. When we have a population of people who choose not to vaccinate themselves or their children, though, that protective barrier begins to have holes in it and the disease can far more easily spread from one person to another.

Here in Maricopa County, a study was done on the number of kindergarten students vaccinated against the Measles. It found that only 40% of kindergarten classrooms had enough students vaccinated to prevent an outbreak. That means that 60% of our kindergarten classrooms has so many kids not vaccinated that the measles could easily take hold.

Measles is Extremely Contagious

Extremely contagious and long-lasting, the disease stays in the air and on surfaces for up to two hours after someone with the measles has touched a surface, coughed, or sneezed. If someone unvaccinated is in the vicinity, it is highly likely they will also come down with the disease. What’s more, it can take 12-21 days for symptoms to appear so you can be contagious long before you know you have the disease. With all the people traveling through our airports and visiting the state, keeping surfaces wiped down and regularly washing your hands is important for the community’s health and safety.

If you are not yet vaccinated with the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine and don’t have any health issues that would prevent you from receiving the shot, now is a great time to get it. Without this protection, you are at high risk of coming down with the disease and by being vaccinated, you will be protecting others as well.

If You Think You Have the Measles

The measles can be dangerous for people to get, especially young children, the elderly, and those with compromised immune systems. The symptoms typically include:

  • Sore throat
  • Red rash (starts on the face and spreads downward)
  • dry cough
  • Runny nose
  • Fever
  • Inflamed eyes

If you think you may have the measles, call your doctor or local health clinic before going in. You will be extremely contagious and don’t want to spread it to others. The local health department will also become involved and want a list of public places you have visited to let others know of the threat. If an outbreak does occur and you or your child are not able to be vaccinated, it is recommended you avoid public places until the threat has passed.

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