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Health officials stress importance of staying up to date on MMR vaccines in wake of daycare outbreak

The MMR vaccine is said to be effective in protecting children as young as 1-year-old from measles.

COLUMBUS, Ohio — A measles outbreak at a Columbus area daycare has infected four children, all under the age of three.

The infected children were all eligible for a vaccine.

"It sounds like there was a decision made by these families not to get their child vaccinated until they absolutely had to when they entered school,” said Dr. Mysheika Roberts of Columbus Public Health.

RELATED: 4 confirmed cases of measles among children at Columbus-area child care facility

The CDC recommends all children get two doses of the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine. The first dose is given between the ages of 12 and 15 months old. The second dose is usually given at 4 years old through the age of six.

"We know that in Ohio, not all children are getting the MMR vaccine,” said Dr. Chris Peltier, president of the Ohio Chapter of the Academy of Pediatrics. “Measles is very highly contagious. It can spread very, very quickly."

Columbus Public Health said measles is preventable with two doses of MMR vaccine. The vaccines are available at Columbus Public Health during regular vaccine clinic hours and at Franklin County Public Health by appointment only. Children also can get MMR vaccines from their pediatrician or medical home.

The four cases bring the total number of confirmed measles cases in Franklin County to eight since June 2022. Roberts said it's a 21-day incubation period from the time you were exposed to the time you have symptoms. 

One of the children was hospitalized in intensive care. Additionally, health officials said they anticipate seeing more cases in the coming days.

This illness leaves unvaccinated children with compromised immune systems or babies simply not old enough to be vaccinated yet -- vulnerable to infection.

The message right now from health leaders is that the MMR vaccine is safe, and it's not too late for your child to get the shot.

"If you have a child or a family member that has not received a vaccine against measles, and they are exposed to somebody that has an in case of measles if you get the vaccine within 72 hours or three days, there is a very good chance that that vaccine will protect against developing measles,” explained Dr. Peltier.

Here in Ohio, pediatricians do see a gap in the number of children who were eligible but did not get vaccinated. They say that gap has lessened since the pandemic shut everything down in 2020, but when it comes to that immunization schedule, parents are still catching up.

What symptoms to watch out for

Measles spreads by coughing, talking or being in the same room with someone who has it. Initial symptoms of measles include a high fever, cough, runny nose and watery eyes followed by a rash that typically spread from the head to the rest of the body.

It generally takes eight to 12 days from exposure to the first symptom, which is usually fever. The rash appears usually two to three days after.

If you have these symptoms, Columbus Public Health says to call your doctor or clinic to let them know about symptoms and potential exposure before going in for a visit.

For questions, call Columbus Public Health at 614-645-1519 or Franklin County Public Health at 614-525-3791. For more information, visit the Columbus Public Health's website.

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