None of the three measles patients confirmed in Maricopa County had been vaccinated. Two of the patients were children. (Photo by Sebastian Barros/NurPhoto/Shutterstock)
PHOENIX — Measles is making a comeback in Maricopa County with three confirmed cases — the first since 2019. Two of the patients are children and one of them required hospitalization.
As of September 1, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had only confirmed 13 cases nationwide.
Symptoms of measles can include red eyes, cough, runny nose, fever, and red, blotchy rashes that start near the hairline and can spread throughout the body, according to the CDC. Symptoms typically develop seven to 14 days after exposure to the highly contagious virus, but can last up to 21 days.
Experts say measles is rarely fatal but is dangerous for children and can have long-term effects.
The standard measles vaccine is 97% effective, according to the Maricopa County Department of Public Health. But once infected, measles runs its own course.
“Measles is super contagious, it’s transmitted by respiratory droplets,” said Dr. Kellie Kruger from the Mayo Clinic-San Tan. “You don’t even have to touch someone or have direct physical contact with someone to actually get measles.”
dr Nick Staab, a medical epidemiologist with the county health department, said the first case of measles came from someone who recently returned to Arizona from an international trip.
“There is no specific treatment for measles, just seek supportive care to get better,” Staab said. Supportive care means home remedies like rest, hydration, and over-the-counter medications. “Even if you make a full recovery, there is a serious side effect that can affect you years later, anywhere from seven to nine years, and can also lead to death,” he said.
This side effect is called SSPE – subacute sclerosing panencephalitis – and affects a person neurologically. Early symptoms can include memory loss, irritability, seizures, involuntary muscle movements, and/or behavioral changes leading to neurological deterioration.
With fewer than 10 cases of SSPE each year, there is still no cure for SSPE, although prescription antiviral drugs can slow progression.
All three of Maricopa County’s cases involved people who were unvaccinated — a trend that’s growing across the country as the COVID-19 pandemic continues and some people choose not to get vaccinated. The pandemic has also disrupted child immunization services and there are increasing inequalities in access to vaccines.
According to the World Health Organization and UNICEF, the number of measles cases has increased significantly worldwide. In 2020, 23 million children worldwide had not received basic childhood immunizations. It is the highest number of unvaccinated children reported since 2009 and almost 4 million more than in 2019.
As a percentage, Maricopa County ranks right in the middle of preschoolers vaccinated against measles: 92.7%. In Yavapai County, the vaccination rate in the 2018-2019 school year was only 83.3%.
These rankings are based on “personal belief” exceptions, according to ADHD data collections.
If you are in close proximity to others, such as B. students in a classroom, special precautions should be taken to ensure everyone’s safety.