Medical Advice: What you need to know about the measles

IT SEEMS AS THOUGH infectious illnesses have led the evening news for the last several weeks. Currently, the increase in the number of measles cases across the country is dominating the headlines. Fortunately, there are no confirmed cases of measles in Florida residents at this time. Since there is so much discussion on this topic, the Florida Department of Health in Polk wants to make sure you have the information you need to keep your family and our community safe.

What is measles, you may ask? The measles virus is a respiratory disease caused by a virus spread through the air by breathing, coughing or sneezing and it is highly contagious. It can be transmitted from four days before a rash becomes visible to four days after the rash appears.

The symptoms of measles generally begin approximately seven to 14 days after a person is exposed to someone with measles, and include the following:

• Blotchy rash
• Fever
• Cough
• Runny nose
• Red, watery eyes (conjunctivitis)
• Feeling run down, achy (malaise)
• Tiny white spots with bluish-white centers found inside the mouth (Koplik’s spots)

Anyone who has these symptoms should contact his or her healthcare provider. Measles are so contagious that if one person has it, 90 percent of the people close to that person who are not vaccinated will also become infected with the measles virus. This is why creating an immunity through vaccination is so important.

The most effective form of protection from measles is through vaccination. The Florida Department of Health in Polk County encourages families to help protect their children by making sure they have their children immunized against measles with the combination MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella) vaccine. The vaccine produces good immunity to measles (95 to 98 percent effective). Children should receive two doses, with the first at 12 to 15 months of age, and the second at four to six years of age. Individuals who are seeking vaccination should first ask their primary care provider, as many insurance companies will cover the cost of the vaccine for adults and children.

The health department offers:

• FREE childhood immunizations through the Vaccines for Children (VFC) program.
• MMR is also available for adults born after 1957.
• Measles vaccine is offered at our Haines City, Lakeland, Lake Wales, and Auburndale clinics. Vaccination is also available at our Bartow Specialty Care Clinic.

The health of a community is determined by the collective health of his residents. The measles virus was declared effectively eradicated in 2010 because of the high percentage of residents who received the measles vaccination. As that rate has declined over the past few years, the number of measles cases has steadily increased. The measles vaccine is safe and is the best weapon we have to once again stamp out this disease.

For more information, please visit the Florida Department of Health in Polk County at


article by DR. ULYEE CHOE

About the author: Dr. Ulyee Choe, an infectious disease physician, serves the community as director of the Florida Department of Health in Polk County (FDOH-Polk) and as a Polk County Medical Association member. For more information about FDOH-Polk, visit

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