Why one case of measles is a public health emergency

When studying for my Certification in Infection Control exam, a review question was “One case of this disease is a public health emergency.”  The correct answer was “measles” (Rubeola).  Not so for chicken pox or pertussis or rubella, so why measles?  I could find no succinct answer to the question, and I had never once dealt with measles in over 10 years of nursing in pediatrics, family medicine, infection control, or public health. In mid-December of 2014, an infected traveler visited Disneyland while contagious. For the next 4 months, health departments in southern CA (including the one where I work) would be overrun with measles cases, suspect cases, and case investigations, and I would come to better understand the emergent nature of measles. Why is one case of measles a public health emergency? The short answer is threefold:  Measles can cause significant illness and death, is highly contagious, and we […]

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