Stanford's Yvonne Maldonado, MD, who heads up Lucile Packard Children's Hospital Stanford infectious disease team, weighed in on California's measles outbreak last week on KQED's Forum program.
The state reported 59 confirmed measles cases following an outbreak at Disneyland in December and fueled by high rates of under-vaccination.
"Measles is one of the most infectious viruses in humans that we know of," Maldonado said. Spread by tiny droplets, measles remains contagious in a room for up to two hours after an infected person has left, she said.
At first, the disease appears like a lot of childhood diseases with three primary symptoms, what doctors call the "3 c's," — cough, coryza (runny nose) and conjunctivitis (red, watery eyes). The disease also produces fever, the charactoristic rash and in rare cases, pneumonia or other complications.
"It is not a simple, easy disease to deal with," Maldonado said.
All children should receive two doses of the vaccine, which is 99 percent effective at preventing the disease, Maldonado said.
Adults who are born after 1957 and do not believe they have had measles, or a vaccine, should also be checked. Although measles has been basically eliminated in the U.S., it is prevalent in other countries and under-vaccination can lead to outbreaks, the researchers said.
Previously: Measles is disappearing from the Western hemisphere, Measles are on the rise; now's the time to vaccinate, says infectious-disease expert and A look at the causes and potential cost of the U.S. measles outbreaks