The Maricopa County Department of Public Health has confirmed at least one case of measles on Saturday morning. The department is investigating the case, which involves an international visitor. Doctors at Phoenix Children’s Hospital have been on high alert due to a spike in measles cases across the country and overseas, especially since the Valley has a low measles vaccination rate.
To reach herd immunity, where there is enough protection to drastically mitigate the disease from spreading, a region needs at least 95% of the population to be vaccinated. However, the Arizona Department of Health Services reports that only 89% of kindergarteners are vaccinated against measles. The airborne virus can spread through coughing and sneezing, leaving the air around it infectious for several hours. Complications from measles can range from mild to severe, including pneumonia and brain swelling.
Dr. Nick Staab, assistant medical director for MCDPH, emphasized the preventability of the highly infectious disease, urging residents to stay up-to-date on their vaccines and watch for symptoms of measles, especially if they are high risk or unvaccinated. Symptoms of measles include fever, cough, white spots in the throat, red and/or watery eyes, rash, and a runny nose, and it can take up to 21 days to start showing symptoms. The department advises those who experience symptoms to self-isolate, stay away from others, and contact their healthcare provider.