With two doses, the measles-mumps-rubella, or MMR vaccine, is about 97 percent effective at preventing measles.
But the illness is highly contagious and can be spread several days before the telltale red rash that follows the other, more ambiguous symptoms.
That has made it difficult to keep it out of hospitals and doctors' offices during the two outbreaks that have hit the Kansas City metro area in the last two months.
In addition to St. Joseph Medical Center, the University of Kansas Hospital, Children's Mercy Hospital in Overland Park and Olathe Health clinics in La Cygne and Mound City have also been potential exposure sites.
Robyn Livingston, a Children's Mercy doctor who specializes in infectious disease, said it's particularly concerning when measles shows up in medical settings unannounced, because hospitals often serve patients who can't be vaccinated for medical reasons.
“If you think your child has measles, don’t just show up to one of our locations," Livingston said. "Which has happened.”
Livingston said it's imperative that people who suspect measles call ahead, so doctors and hospitals can arrange to segregate them from others.
Though most people who get measles fully recover, it can cause potentially fatal complications like pneumonia and, more rarely, encephalitis.
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