Don’t Let Measles Be Your Travel Souvenir

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Don’t Let Measles Be Your Travel Souvenir

What you need to know about Measles before the summer travel season

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there have been nearly 840 cases of measles across the U.S. so far in 2019.  Colorado has seen one confirmed case, and while there have been zero confirmed cases in Mesa County, measles could only be a plane ride away.

Dr. Phil Mohler, Medical Officer for Mesa County Public Health, explains, “Grand Junction and many communities in Colorado, as well as Nationwide, are at imminent risk for another measles outbreak.”  Mesa County experienced a measles outbreak in 1994. In December of that year, there were 62 confirmed cases.

There are pockets of unimmunized and under-immunized populations in Mesa County that could put our community at risk. When you look at the most recent data from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, you see Mesa County’s vaccine rates are as low as 80% when it comes to the Measles Mumps Rubella (MMR) vaccine.

    • Alternative schools (1,064 students)  
      • 79.7% of students are up-to-date on MMR vaccine.
      • 22.3% of students have at least one vaccine exemption.
      • 9.5% of students are exempt for all vaccines.
    • Elementary schools (8,796 students)
      • 93.8% of students are up-to-date on MMR vaccine.
      • 4.9% of students have at least one vaccine exemption.
      • 1.6% of students are exempt for all vaccines. 
    • Middle schools (4,510 students)
      • 95.3% of students are up-to-date on MMR vaccine
      • 5.2% of students have at least one vaccine exemption.
      • 1.0% of students are exempt for all vaccines.
    • High schools (6,536 students)
      • 95.9% of students are up-to-date on MMR vaccine.
      • 3.9% of students have at least one vaccine exemption.
      • 0.9% of students are exempt for all vaccines.

Dr. Mohler says that the immunization rates in the alternative schools are disturbing. With measles, 92% – 95% of any population needs to immune to measles to prevent an outbreak. Herd immunity is the concept wherein if a certain percentage of the population is immune, that disease will not spread widely. Plus, the measles virus has some other unique and troublesome characteristics.  Patients with measles are contagious 4-5 days prior to getting one of the first physical symptoms, a rash. Additionally, transmission occurs not only person to person – but it is airborne as well. Infectious droplets can remain in the air for up to 2 hours, so that means it can be transmitted in public spaces, even without person to person contact. Plus, the multiplying factor is huge, “The average number of new infections caused by each case of measles in a totally susceptible population is 12 to 18, compared with influenza where 2-3 cases occur,” says Mohler.

Mesa County Public Health has highly trained professionals willing to answer any questions about vaccines and help parents make the best decision for their children.  Our clinic has been answering an increased volume of calls from community members with questions about vaccines. Other trusted sources for information about vaccines include the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

For more information, call 970-249-6800 or visit health.mesacounty.us.

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