Update (March 9, 2015): Ongoing Multi-State Outbreak
By now you've likely heard about the measles outbreak associated with travel to an amusement park in California. The Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is reporting 173 cases so far this year in multiple states, most of them stemming from the amusement park outbreak that began in late December 2014.
A review of our current and historical records shows there have not been any instances of measles in South Carolina as far back as 1999.
In light of the current multi-state measles outbreak, DHEC emphasizes that while no cases of measles have been identified in South Carolina in over a decade, the risk of imported measles is real and increasing as measles spreads in the U.S.
Measles vaccination is strongly recommended to protect those who are unvaccinated and those who are too young to be vaccinated.
What is measles?
Measles is a highly contagious viral disease spread when an infected person coughs or sneezes.
What are the symptoms?
The initial symptoms of measles include fever, cough, and runny nose. These symptoms are followed in about 2-4 days by a rash. The rash usually lasts 5-6 days. Severe complications can occur with measles, including pneumonia, encephalitis, and even death. Complications caused by the virus can occur in as many as 3 out of 10 cases. Complications are most often seen in children under 5 years of age, adults over the age of 20, pregnant women, and individuals with a weakened immune system.
How is measles treated?
Measles is caused by a virus, so antibiotics will not help.
Most people recover completely on their own. For uncomplicated cases, bed rest, drinking plenty of fluids and over-the-counter medications to reduce the fever and headache may help make infected individuals more comfortable. For those who require hospitalization, supportive care is the only treatment.
How do people catch this disease?
The disease is very contagious and is spread to as many as 9 out of 10 close contacts who have not had the disease earlier or have not been vaccinated. After an infected person leaves a location, the measles virus remains alive for up to two hours on surfaces and in the air.
Who is vulnerable for getting the measles?
Anyone who has either not had the measles or who has not been adequately vaccinated against measles can easily get the disease if exposed. Of the people who become infected, those at highest risk of severe illness and complications are children less than 5 years of age, pregnant women, individuals with a weakened immune system, and adults older than 20.
What can be done to stop the spread of this disease?
The measles vaccine (included in the MMR vaccine) is the best way to protect yourself and others against the measles. About 93% of people vaccinated with one dose have permanent protection and about 97% get protection after two doses of measles vaccine. The vaccine is recommended for all infants at 12 months of age. A second dose is recommended between 4 to 6 years of age. It is also a requirement to attend day care or school in South Carolina.
Understanding South Carolina's Vaccination Rates Among School Children
We still have vulnerable populations in South Carolina. We know the following: Our coverage rates in the 19 - 35 month old survey are similar to other Southern states; children below the poverty level have lower vaccination rates for many vaccines; 1 in 12 U.S. children don't get the 1st dose of the MMR vaccine on time; and communities with lower MMR coverage rates are more vulnerable.
Based on school reports to DHEC for 778,588 students on the 45th day of school for the 2014-2015 school year, 5,826 (0.75%) students had a religious exemption and 1,540 (0.2%) had a medical exemption.