Health officials to monitor 300 exposed to measles in Colorado Springs

Health

This thin-section transmission electron micrograph (TEM) revealed the ultrastructural appearance of a single virus particle, or virion, of measles virus. (Photo: CDC)

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COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- Nearly 300 people were exposed to measles after a Colorado woman contracted the illness at Disneyland’s California Adventure.  The Colorado patient is one of 26 confirmed cases stemming from the outbreak.

Measles is one of the most contagious diseases known, which is why the El Paso County Public Health Department will be monitoring anyone who came in contact with this patient through January 24.

It’s spread through respiratory droplets; you can catch it even just being in a room where a person with measles has been.

“It's a serious disease and we don't want to return to the pre-vaccine era,” said Dr. Bill Letson, the Medical Director for El Paso County Public Health. He said about 90 percent of the people exposed in Colorado Springs are already immune, most having already had the vaccine. "By the time the patient arrived at the hospital, she was infectious, but not as highly infectious as she had been earlier."

Measles is highly contagious and can even be contagious before symptoms begin. Dr. Letson said it starts with cold-like symptoms including a progressively rising fever, a cough and runny nose and conjunctivitis, or red eyes. About two to four days later, a rash forms, typically on the face. “They're small pinpoint bumps, about 1mm flat, red spots and they progress downward,” he said.

Dr. Letson said the best prevention is getting vaccinated. “The outbreaks generally occur, in majority, in people who are unimmunized.” He added, “It’s really one of the best vaccines we have." In fact, he said it’s about 99.5 percent effective. However, both doses are crucial; the first one around 12 months of age, the second, between four and five years old.

The patient in Colorado Springs may have already had the vaccine; however, she also may have received it between 1963 and 1967 before a live form of the vaccine was available. As far as getting another dose if you did receive a vaccine during that time frame, Dr. Letson said it wouldn’t be worth recommending because measles have largely been eliminated in the Western Hemisphere and that form of the vaccine still works reasonably well.

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