President's Rx: Measles

Measles cases are at the highest level in nearly 20 years, according to a recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This week, Dr. Tedd L. Mitchell discusses the causes and symptoms of measles and why it is so important to get vaccinated.

According to the CDC, more Americans were infected with measles during the first four months of 2014 than have been infected in the first four months going back 18 years. This is due, in part, to an increasing number intentionally unvaccinated people, as well as a lack of awareness in the medical community.

Measles is an extremely contagious respiratory disease caused by a virus. Symptoms of measles include fever, runny nose, cough, pink eye, and a rash all over the body.

Measles can also cause complications including ear infections, pneumonia, and brain infections, and has also been known to cause miscarriage or premature birth.

Because measles was all but eradicated in the U.S. and has similar properties to other diseases like roseola and rubella, it can be difficult for health care providers to immediately identify.

The best way to prevent measles is to get yourself and your children vaccinated. The CDC recommends children get two doses of the measles vaccine beginning at 1 year old, with the second dose between the ages of 4 and 6 years old. Infants 6 to 11 months old should get the vaccine before international travel.

To further reduce the spread of measles, the CDC also recommends all U.S. residents born after 1956 ensure either they are still immune to measles or just go ahead and get another MMR vaccination, especially if they expect to travel outside North or South America.