Health department urges residents to get vaccinated against measles after possible exposure

The Branch-Hillsdale-St. Joseph County Health Agency is reminding residents of the importance of vaccinations after the Jackson County Health Department reported a possible measles exposure at Henry Ford Allegiance Hospital on March 10.

The health department is urging Branch, Hillsdale, and St. Joseph County residents to check their records to make sure they are vaccinated against measles. If you are unsure, you can check online or with your local health department.

Symptoms of measles typically begin seven to 14 days after exposure, but they can appear up to 21 days later. Measles is a highly contagious viral infection that can be spread through direct person-to-person contact, as well as through the air and on surfaces. The virus can stay on surfaces for up to two hours after an infected person leaves the area.

In addition to being contagious, people who are not vaccinated are at risk of being infected themselves. The measles vaccine is the best way to protect against the harmful consequences of measles. The vaccine program in the United States started in 1963 and has been highly effective in eliminating the disease. Most cases of measles in the U.S. are occurring among people who have recently traveled internationally.

Children are recommended to receive their first dose of the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine at 12 months of age. A second dose should be administered between the ages of four and six. The Branch-Hillsdale-St. Joseph Community Health Agency also offers vaccinations for qualifying families with children and teens 18 years or younger through the Vaccines for Children (VFC) program. The Adult Vaccine Program also offers certain vaccines for eligible adults 19 years and older.

To schedule an appointment and/or for immunization questions, give your local health department a call.