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Important to know the symptoms

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In the wake of recent measles, mumps and chickenpox outbreaks, the American Osteopathic Association (AOA) wants the public to become familiar with the hallmark signs of these classic diseases.  

Osteopathic pediatrician Stanley E. Grogg, DO, professor emeritus of pediatrics at Oklahoma State UniversityCenter for Health Sciences in Tulsa, developed a simple reference to help patients quickly recognize the hallmark symptoms of outbreak illnesses.  Those with symptoms of these illnesses are strongly urged to isolate themselves until they are evaluated by a physician.

Dr. Grogg, who is the AOA's liaison to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), also recommends that medical office staff isolate patients with these classic symptoms by showing them directly to an exam room rather than seating them in public waiting areas.

"These highly contagious illnesses are particularly challenging because most Americans under 50 have never seen measles, mumps or even chickenpox because of the historically high levels of vaccination in the U.S.," Dr. Grogg said. "I frequently consult with younger physicians looking to confirm diagnoses because they've only seen these illnesses in a textbook."

Some key diagnostic signs:

  • Measles: Rash that starts on the face, red eyes and bad cough
  • Mumps: Swelling above the jaw, plus aches, fever and other flu-like symptoms
  • Rubella: Rash on face lasting two to three days
  • Chickenpox:  Itchy red bumps that appear in clusters, plus flu-like symptoms
  • Pertussis: Intense coughing with a distinctive 'whoop' sound

These illnesses are making a comeback due to international travel and the growing number of unvaccinated people, according to the CDC. Measles, declared eradicated by the CDC in 2000, hit a 20-year high in 2014. Vaccination is only about 88 percent effective against mumps, according to the CDC, so even those who have vaccinated may be vulnerable to the illness.

People who believe they've been exposed to these illnesses should consult their physician, who may be able to help prevent the disease from developing.  

"People who haven't been vaccinated can protect themselves from measles by getting the MMR vaccine within 72 hours of exposure. With mumps, a third dose of the vaccine seems to be helpful and is particularly important for males of reproductive age, who can become sterile if the mumps virus settles in the testicles," Dr. Grogg said.

About the AOA
The American Osteopathic Association (AOA) represents more than 110,000 osteopathic physicians (DOs) and osteopathic medical students; promotes public health; encourages scientific research; serves as the primary certifying body for DOs; is the accrediting agency for osteopathic medical schools; and has federal authority to accredit hospitals and other health care facilities. More information on DOs/osteopathic medicine can be found at


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