Measles (rubeola) is an acute respiratory viral illness that starts with a runny nose, fever, cough, redness in eyes and sore throat. It is highly contagious and can spread through coughing and sneezing by an infected person. Complications of the disease include pneumonia, encephalitis and even death. Before the measles vaccine became available in the 1960s, an estimated three to four million people, mostly children under the age of 15, were infected each year with measles. Of these, an estimated 400-500 people died, 48,000 people were hospitalized and 1,000 people developed encephalitis each year.
Due to the widespread use of the measles vaccine and the implementation of a second dose of MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella) vaccine in all children, measles was declared eliminated in the United States in 2000. However, measles is still common in many parts of the world and measles outbreaks still occur every year in the United States as a result of international traveling.
The average number of measles cases per year has been increasing since 2000, with 37 cases in 2004 to 372 cases in 2018. Currently, the United States has documented more than 760 cases, which is higher than the annual number of cases observed since it was declared eradicated in the United States. Outbreaks have been reported in New York, New Jersey, California, Michigan, Georgia and Maryland and most of these outbreaks have been in communities where groups of people are unvaccinated.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that children get two doses of the MMR vaccine: with the first one between 12 and 15 months and the second dose between four and six years of age. In addition, infants between the age of six and 11 months should receive a dose of measles vaccine prior to international travel.
Dr. Essie Samuel is an assistant professor of pharmacy practice at PCOM Georgia in Suwanee, Georgia, and a board certified pharmacotherapy specialist practicing as an antimicrobial stewardship pharmacist at Wellstar North Fulton Hospital in Roswell, Georgia. Dr. Samuel received her doctorate of pharmacy from the University of Houston and her PGY-1 Pharmacy Practice Residency training from Baylor Scott & White Health in Dallas, Texas. She has worked as a clinical pharmacist at various institutions prior to joining PCOM School of Pharmacy as a faculty member.