Vermont health officials are preparing for a possible measles outbreak in the state.
"This is not a trivial illness," said Dr. Joseph Hagan, a Burlington pediatrician. "This is something that makes people like me worry."
Eighteen states, including Massachusetts and New York, are reporting measles outbreaks, about 540 cases since the first of January in the U.S.
"Measles is not eradicated. Measles is always here," Hagan said. "If you are not immunized, you are at risk."
The last outbreak of the highly contagious disease in Vermont was in 1993. There's been just one reported case here since then.
"Because it's in New York and because it's in Massachusetts, it's only a matter of time before we see an outbreak here again. So this is the good time to call your doctor and get an immunization," Hagan advised.
Vermont health officials are asking medical providers to be on the lookout for its signs and symptoms, including fever, cough, a rash and conjunctivitis. And they warn parents not to take the illness lightly.
"One to two people out of a thousand die from measles," Hagan said.
It can also lead to damaging brain infections. Your best defense, doctors say, is the vaccine.
"The people affected are almost always unimmunized people, people who did not get the vaccine," Hagan said.
One dose of the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine has a high efficacy rate at 95 percent, a second bumps it to 98 percent.
"Measles vaccine is absolutely positively safe," Hagan said. "No drug is without side effects entirely, but side effects from measles vaccine is incredibly rare."
Health officials say anyone born after 1957 who has not been vaccinated is at risk and should get at least one dose of the vaccine. Two doses are recommended for adults who are at higher risk, like college students and health care workers.
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