CDC Offers Measles Outbreak Guidelines for Dental Practices

Dentistry Today
CDC/Dr. Heinz F. Eichenwald


CDC/Dr. Heinz F. Eichenwald

As measles continues to spread across the country, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has updated its Guideline for Isolation Precautions: Preventing Transmission of Infectious Agents in Healthcare Settings for dental practices to follow if they suspect that one of their patients has the disease. 

First, measles-susceptible healthcare personnel (HCP) should not enter the room if care providers who are immune to measles are available.

Second, regardless of any presumptive evidence of immunity including written documentation of adequate vaccination, laboratory evidence of immunity, laboratory confirmation of measles, or birth before 1957, HCP should use respiratory protection that is at least as protective as a fit-tested, NIOSH-certified N95 respirator when entering the patient’s room or care area.

Third, if a measles-susceptible HCP is exposed to measles, a post-exposure vaccine should be administered within 72 hours, or immune globulin administered within six days, when available.

Finally, surfaces potentially contaminated with respiratory droplets should be cleaned and disinfected using an EPA-registered low- or intermediate-level hospital disinfectant.

The CDC reminds caregivers that measles is a highly contagious virus that lives in the nose and throat mucus of an infected person. It can spread to others through coughing and sneezing. Also, measles virus can live for up to two hours in an airspace where the infected person has coughed or sneezed.

If other people breathe the contaminated air or touch the infected surface and then touch their eyes, noses, or mouths, they can become infected. Measles is so contagious that if one person has it, up to 90% of the people close to that person who are not immune will also become infected.  

Infected people can spread measles to others from four days before through four days after the associated rash appears. Measles is a human disease. The virus is not spread by any other animal species.

Also, the CDC and the Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists have designated measles as a nationally notifiable disease. Many states require healthcare personnel to immediately report suspected measles cases to local health officials so they may begin notification, isolation, quarantine, and reporting.

The CDC advises dental professionals to consult their local health department for rules specific to their jurisdictions. The CDC also offers information at its Measles (Rubeola) for Healthcare Professionals Website.

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