Navajo Head Start Took Precautions with Recent Arizona Measles Scare

NHS made it priority to ensure all of its children, families, staff are adequately immunized

measles-symptoms-includeWINDOW ROCK, ARIZONA — Navajo Head Start took precautions to make sure all their students and staff were vaccinated for measles due to recent measles breakouts across the country. Student health is one of the top priorities at Navajo Head Start (NHS) to ensure students remain healthy and to decrease missed days due to sickness.

Recently, at least 1,000 people in Arizona, including 200 children, were infected with the measles virus, also known at Rubella, a highly contagious virus that infects the respiratory system. There was a measles outbreak recently across the U.S. which is gradually tapering off. Most cases were linked to a breakout in a California amusement park.

Staff worked closely with Indian Health Services (IHS) and regional healthcare providers to verify and identify under-immunized children enrolled in the program. These children were referred to IHS clinics to be vaccinated. Staff worked to address issues immediately, as measles is the most contagious disease on earth. One infected person has the potential to infect 90 percent of the un-vaccinated people around them.

Measles is highly contagious and is a vaccine-preventable respiratory disease caused by a virus. The best way to prevent measles is to have a child vaccinated with the Measles-Mumps-Rubella (MMR) vaccine. The vaccine comes in two doses. Children typically get their first shot between 12 and 15 months of age. Before starting school, children get a second dosage between the ages of four and six years.

The measles virus lives in the nose and throat mucus of an infected person. The virus can live in airspace and surfaces for two hours where an infected person coughed or sneezed. If someone breathes the air or touches a surface, then touches their eyes, nose or mouth, they have the potential to become infected.

You must contact a doctor immediately at the first sign of infection. Symptoms usually appear between seven and 12 days after contamination. Typically, measles begin with high fever, runny nose, cough, and watery red eyes. A couple of days after these symptoms arise, tiny white Koplik spots may appear inside the mouth.

Three to five days after the symptoms start, a rash begins, usually beginning at the hairline and moving downward to the neck, torso, arms, legs, and feet. Sometimes small raised red bumps appear on top of the flat red spots. Fevers can also be over 104 degrees Fahrenheit. After a few days, the rash disappears and the fever subsides.

Complications can occur, which makes measles even scarier.

Complications are more likely to happen to children under five years and adults over 20 years of age. Common complications include ear infections and diarrhea. Severe complications include pneumonia and encephalitis. One out of 20 children will contract pneumonia from the measles virus—this is the common cause of death in children with measles.

Navajo Head Start made it priority to ensure all of its children, families and staff are adequately immunized. Adeline June-Tsosie, health and nutrition specialist at NHS, is available to answer questions or concerns regarding measles and immunizations. She can be reached at or at 928-853-6902.



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