Macon health official weighs in on measles outbreak

MACON, Georgia (41NBC/WMGT) – A measles outbreak is spreading nationwide. So far, there have been no cases reported in Georgia, but it’s possible the air-born virus could make its way to the Southeast. 

Dr. David Harvey, the District Health Director for the North Central Health District, says measles is a highly contagious virus. The outbreak started at the Disneyland Park in California.

"It can be spread for several days before you even know you have it," explained Dr. Harvey.

The outbreak is affected more than 100 people from 14 states. Dr. Harvey tells 41NBC just about all of those people did not have a complete series of vaccinations. 

The symptoms start out similar to the flu.

"You have fever and you feel bad. You get a sore throat. There’s a red rash and that generally starts on the torso," explained Dr. Harvey.

Soon the rash spreads to the entire body. While the virus is fatal, it’s not common for someone to die from it now a days.

"Two or three fatalities out of a thousand cases," said Dr. Harvey.

Most cases can be treated with over-the-counter medicines, but staying hydrated is most important.

"Very few cases end up in the hospital, unless they go into pneumonia or encephalitis, dehydration," noted Dr. Harvey.

Dr. Harvey warns it’s possible the outbreak could make its way to Georgia.

"There are non-stop flights from Southern California to Atlanta everyday," explained Dr. Harvey.

He adds the best way to prevent getting the measles is to get a vaccine. 

"The volume of the dose that you get is so small, that the small percentage of what’s in there, is not proven to show any harm at all," said Dr. Harvey.

Dr. Harvey understands people have their reasons for not wanting the vaccine, but he encourages everyone to look at the positive results. 

Dr. Harvey says there are two vaccines for children. The first is given at one year of age and another is given at the time of pre-school. Officials say children need both shots because their immune systems are not fully developed at the time of the first dose. 

Adults only need one vaccine, but health officials are conducting studies to see if adults need to get an extra booster shot to make up for the second vaccine they may not have received as a child.