Health officials recently confirmed Kansas's first cases of measles this year, and unfortunately, they're all infants who go to the same day care center in Overland Park, Kansas. Though the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine is required for children in the state to attend day care, the three babies were less than 1 year old and too young to receive the vaccine.
Measles were considered eliminated as of 2000, but the highly contagious viral infection has made a comeback in recent years, culminating in a record number of cases in 2014 (667 cases in 27 states). As of late February this year, there have been 13 reported cases of measles, not yet including the ones in Kansas. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the majority of people who got measles were unvaccinated.
"Vaccination is the best way to prevent measles in children and adults. Make sure children have the MMR vaccine when they are 12 to 15 months old, and again before they enter kindergarten," said Lougene Marsh, director of the Johnson County (Kansas) Department of Health and Environment.
Nancy Tausz, health service division director of the department, added that people can still catch measles, which causes flu-like symptoms and a rash that covers the whole body. Symptoms begin one to two weeks after a person is exposed. The airborne virus is so contagious that exam rooms exposed to a child with measles can't be used for two hours after the exam.
"Measles is still out there, and people get kind of complacent with vaccines, but you certainly don't want to get measles," Tausz told Kansas City public radio station KCUR.
By getting vaccinated, adults can also help protect those who can't get immunized against measles and other diseases that could easily turn life-threatening for infants. Herd immunity makes it harder for the disease to spread because enough people are vaccinated against it.
The three affected infants in Kansas and those they have come in contact with have been excluded from the day care for 21 days.
Health officials warn that any child who has been exposed to the measles should not attend day care or school. If your child has a fever or exhibits other measles-like symptoms, take them to a doctor.