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Helena health officials urge residents to be prepared for measles

Posted at 2:53 PM, Feb 10, 2019
and last updated 2019-02-10 16:53:09-05

(HELENA) Lewis and Clark Public Health officials (LCPH) are urging residents to be prepared for the measles virus.

Health officials said with the recent outbreak of the disease in Washington state, there is a likely chance measles will make its way to the area.

“[Washington] is right next door to us – people from here travel to the state all the time,” said Public Health Nurse Supervisor Shelly Maag.

Maag said measles can survive in the air for two hours so even a short stop in Washington can be a potential exposure.

Measles can cause a high fever, runny nose, cough and rash from head to toe. The disease is highly contagious and potentially fatal.

Babies, pregnant women, and the unvaccinated are the most susceptible to the disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The CDC recommends all children and unvaccinated adults receive the measles vaccine (MMR). Studies have shown it to be 97 percent effective after the recommended two doses.

“People with certain health conditions can’t get the MMR vaccine and that’s why the other people should,” noted Maag, “because those people don’t have the option and if they got measles even more harsh for them.”

The CDC recounts that the disease was declared eliminated in the United States in the year 2000, but the country has seen an increasing number of cases recently due to the anti-vaccine movement, per a 2018 study published in the National Center for Biotechnology Information.

Anti-vaccine proponents claim that an additive in vaccines can cause autism in children, which has prompted new research from organizations like the American Academy of Pediatrics. The CDC, numerous studies, and the healthcare community state there is no link between vaccines and autism.

The last case of measles reported in Montana was in 1990, according to the Montana Department of Public of Health and Human Services.

People who are not sure whether they are immune or would like to be vaccinated, can contact their medical provider or the health department at 457-8900.

LCPH offers walk-in immunization clinics Mondays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays from 11:30 to 4:30 p.m. at 1930 Ninth Avenue in Helena. No appointment is needed.

-Reported by John Riley/MTN News