Think your child has the measles? Call before you seek care

Measles, mumps and rubella vaccine
The highly contagious disease is generally preventable by a vaccine, but there's been a recent outbreak of at least nine cases among unvaccinated kids.
Justin Sullivan | Getty Images file

Updated: 5 p.m., April 20 | Posted: 3 p.m., April 18

Dr. Jon Hallberg is having fewer conversations with vaccine skeptics at his Minneapolis practice now. He credits that to the spread of information that vaccines are safe and the debunking of any false claims otherwise.

Still, as of Thursday, there have been 12 recent cases of measles in Minnesota kids — all of them unvaccinated.

Minnesota's infectious disease director says that number is expected to increase.

Hallberg joined All Things Considered host Tom Crann to catch us up on the latest with Minnesota's measles outbreak and explain what we should know about the disease.

How can I avoid measles?

Measles virus
A single virus particle, or "virion," of the measles virus.
Photo by Cynthia S. Goldsmith, courtesy of the CDC

The vaccination is over 95 percent effective. Kids as young as six or 12 months should be vaccinated. For babies who haven't been vaccinated yet, keep them away from places where they might be exposed. The state Department of Health has recommended that hospitals and clinics accelerate their vaccination schedules.

What're the symptoms?

Hallberg says there some very characteristic symptoms for measles.

There's a fever and the three C's — cough, coryza (a runny nose) and conjunctivitis. Then comes the pervasive red rash.

How does it spread?

Measles is very contagious. It's spread by droplet transmission, Hallberg said, which means that sneezing or coughing puts the infection into the air.

"Anyone walking through who's breathing that same air can get infected," he said.

What should I do if I think my child has measles?

Hallberg says you should call the clinic before just dropping in if a child may have measles. Call a triage nurse first, he said, and let them decide what's best.

"I think it's fair for a clinic to know that a child that's coming who might have this," he said.

What're treatment options?

There aren't any. "You just have to ride it out," Hallberg said.

It's only supportive care, often to combat dehydration that comes with the sickness.

The best thing you can do for any child: Get them vaccinated. If there's a vaccine for a disease, Hallberg said, it's for a good reason.

"These diseases kill children around the world," he said.

Measles can be quite serious, and even deadly for young kids.

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