Measles and More: Taking our pulse

Dr. Jacob Lazarovic

Dr. Jacob Lazarovic

The current measles outbreak in California, now rapidly spreading to at least 16 other states, is a reminder that infectious diseases still require vigilance, that vaccine-preventable infections may reappear if our compliance levels decrease, and that attention to adult immunization guidelines remains a priority in order to help prevent workplace disability.

First, let’s catch up on measles.

“Measles is a highly contagious disease, transmitted by respiratory aerosols when an infected person coughs or sneezes. The virus can live for up to two hours on surfaces or in an airspace where the infected person coughed or sneezed. The incubation period ranges from 7-21 (average 10-12) days and an individual can pass the virus to others before feeling ill.  The signs and symptoms of measles include: fever, malaise, runny nose, cough and conjunctivitis (“pink eye”). A raised, red rash typically appears ~3 days after onset of illness and the ill person continues to be infectious for about 4 days after the rash appears. The rash initially appears behind the ears and on the forehead, spreading down the neck, upper extremities, trunks, and lower extremities (including palms and soles).  It may last for 5-7 days before fading. Complications from measles may include: middle ear infection, bronchopneumonia, croup, diarrhea, acute encephalitis, and death.”

All suspected measles cases should be reported to county health departments immediately.


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has developed a comprehensive workplace health model containing several health promotion building blocks.

Adult immunization programs constitute one element of a systematic approach to workplace health.

Vaccine-preventable diseases are infectious diseases that can be prevented by immunization

(vaccination). Traditionally, vaccines have been associated with protecting young children, but far too

many adults become ill, are disabled, and die each year from diseases that could easily have been prevented by vaccines. Vaccines not only prevent disease in the people who receive them but often create “herd immunity,” meaning that even unvaccinated individuals are at lower risk of disease if most of their community is immunized. Everyone from young adults to older adults can benefit from immunizations.

Among vaccine-preventable diseases in adults, influenza has the greatest impact in the U.S. population.

  • An average of 36,000 deaths and over 200,000 hospitalizations associated with influenza occur each year in the United Sta
  • The combination of influenza and pneumonia was the eighth leading cause of death among all persons in the United States in 2005, accounting for 63,000 death
  • The overall national economic burden of influenza-attributable illness for adults, age 18 years and above is $83.3 billion. Direct medical costs for influenza in adults totaled $8.7 billion including $4.5 billion for adult hospitalizations resulting from influenza-attributable illne
  • Influenza is also responsible for substantial indirect costs ($6.2 billion annually), mainly from lost productivity. Each year, among adults age 18 to 64 years, 17 million workdays are lost to influenza-related illness.


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