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Be mindful about measles

ROYAL AIR FORCE LAKENHEATH, England -- In 2010, more than 30,000 measles cases were reported in Europe.

This number is five times higher than the normal average for the past five years. During the first six months of 2011, more than 26,000 cases and seven deaths were reported according to health officials.

Measles is a highly contagious disease, easily preventable by vaccination. A typical case begins with a mild to moderate fever, cough, runny nose, red eyes and sore throat. Small white spots may appear inside the mouth and a red skin rash appears, beginning on the face and spreading to the neck, torso, and extremities.

When the rash appears, fever may spike to more than 104 degrees Fahrenheit. After a few days, the fever subsides and the rash fades. People with measles need bed rest, fluids and control of fever. People with measles cannot attend daycare, school or go to work for at least four days after the rash appears.

Immunization is the first step and best defense towards fighting the disease. Two doses of the measles vaccine are needed for complete protection. Due to the current situation, it is strongly advised that children receive their first dose of measles vaccine on their first birthday or shortly after. Adults and adolescents should also get measles vaccine if not previously vaccinated, unless they already had measles and are immune. Measles vaccine given in combination with mumps and rubella is referred to as "MMR."

There are no current travel restrictions related to measles outbreaks. Department of Defense health officials in Europe stress the importance of adequate measles immunization, especially prior to travel and attendance at large public gatherings. Parents with infants less than six months of age should pay particular attention to European countries with high rates of measles. When these families travel to affected areas it is recommend to limit non-family member contact with infants/children who are not fully vaccinated. If you are preparing to travel, Public Health can help you plan.

If you notice any signs or symptoms of measles, contact your healthcare provider immediately and limit contact with others who are otherwise unaffected. For more information visit www.cdc.gov/measles/index.html or call Public Health at 226-8777.