Maine DHHS Press / News Release
March 8, 2019
Maine CDC Encourages Vaccination as Measles Cases Increase Nationally
Augusta, MAINE - The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention (Maine CDC) encourages Mainers to get vaccinated against measles as cases of the highly contagious illness continue to appear throughout the U.S.
From January 1 to February 28, 2019, 206 cases of measles were reported in 11 states, from Washington to Connecticut. Outbreaks, defined as three or more cases, have been reported in four of these states, and typically started with travelers who brought measles back after becoming infected while traveling overseas in areas where large measles outbreaks are occurring.
Measles is still common in many parts of the world, including countries in Europe, Asia, the Pacific, and Africa. People who are not vaccinated can contract measles while traveling, then bring it back to the U.S. and infect others who are unvaccinated.
To date, no cases of measles have been reported in Maine this year. The last reported case in Maine was in 2017 in an individual who had acquired it after traveling overseas
- Measles is a highly contagious, potentially severe viral illness that begins with a fever, cough, runny nose, and red eyes followed by a rash that usually starts on the face and spreads to the rest of the body. The rash usually appears about 14 days after a person is exposed. Measles can cause health complications including pneumonia and encephalitis, and lead to death.
- Measles spreads when an infected person coughs or sneezes. After an infected person leaves a location, the virus can live for up to 2 hours in the air or on surfaces where the infected person coughed or sneezed. Measles is so contagious that 90 percent of the people close to an infected individual who are not immune will become infected.
- Infected individuals can spread measles from 4 days before through 4 days after the rash appears. The incubation period - the time it takes for symptoms to appear after contracting the virus - is typically 10-14 days, but can be as long as 21 days. During this time, a person with measles can spread the illness before they've learned of their infection.
"The best protection against measles is vaccination," said Dr. Siiri Bennett, Maine State Epidemiologist. "Most people who get measles are unvaccinated. Immunization helps protect you, your family, and your community from this dangerous and largely preventable virus."
The Measles, Mumps, and Rubella (MMR) vaccine provides long-lasting protection against all strains of measles and is scientifically proven to be safe and effective. Two doses of MMR vaccine are about 97 percent effective at preventing measles, and one dose is about 93 percent effective. The few fully vaccinated people who get measles are much more likely to have a milder illness and also less likely to spread the disease to other people, including those who can't get vaccinated because they are too young or have weakened immune systems.
The MMR vaccine is readily available throughout the state. All Maine children up to 18 years of age, regardless of insurance status, are eligible to receive vaccine at no cost.
If you think you have been exposed to someone with measles, inform your doctor immediately.
- Your doctor can determine if you are immune to measles based on your vaccination record, age, or laboratory testing. Adults who are not vaccinated or who have not had the disease should get at least one dose of MMR vaccine.
- If you have symptoms, call your provider for instructions before arriving at the provider's offices or a hospital or clinic. Precautions may be taken to protect other patients and medical office staff from the risk of infection.
- If your symptoms are consistent with the disease, testing may be performed. Individuals without symptoms do not need to be tested.
If you are traveling outside of the U.S., make sure you are vaccinated against measles before you depart.
For more information on measles visit:
- Maine CDC's measles webpage: www.maine.gov/dhhs/mecdc/infectious-disease/epi/vaccine/measles.shtml
- U.S. CDC's measles webpage: www.cdc.gov/measles/index.html
- Maine Immunization Program webpage: ImmunizeME.org