Emergency providers need to remain on their guard for potential cases of measles. The CDC says that as of May 24, 940 measles cases had been confirmed in 2019, the most cases reported in the United States in 25 years.
While cases have been confirmed in 26 states, the largest outbreaks have occurred in New York and Washington, although public health officials in Washington have indicated that the outbreaks there have been contained. The CDC notes that most cases have involved children who have not been vaccinated, and several cases have been traced to people entering the United States from other countries.
To address the outbreaks, the CDC has implemented an incident management structure within the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases. Public health officials are encouraging frontline providers to take note of the agency’s guidelines for recognizing and preventing measles. (Learn more at: .) Further, since misinformation about vaccines continues circulating, the CDC has developed a toolkit that includes resources that physicians can use to help reinforce their discussions with patients about measles and vaccines. (Learn more at: .)
Emergency providers need to be particularly attuned to potential measles cases, as the disease is highly contagious. In some cases, ED staff and other frontline providers are asking patients who think they may have measles to call ahead before they arrive for care so that steps can be taken to prevent exposure to other patients or staff who may be vulnerable.
The CDC advises providers to consider measles in any patient who has a fever and a rash. These patients also may exhibit a cough, coryza (a head cold that includes a runny nose), and conjunctivitis. Further, patients should be questioned about whether they have recently traveled internationally or if they may have been exposed to measles in their communities.