How Do I Disinfect My Home After a Measles Outbreak?

Joe MayCrime Scene Cleanup

Measles outbreaks have been in international news lately, as have unsettling stories about parents in Europe and North America refusing to have their children inoculated with the MMR/MMRV (measles, mumps, and rubella/varicella) vaccine. The two are connected. When the percentage of unvaccinated members of a population increases, so does the likelihood of an outbreak. Herd immunity is achieved when the vast majority (at least 93% to 95%, according to infectious disease experts) have measles immunity.

You may already know much of what you’re reading here, but you still might have questions. If you ask on social media or certain message boards, there’s a staggeringly high chance you’ll encounter responses from people who still believe myths that vaccines cause developmental disorders, cancer, or other completely unrelated conditions. Others might insist that natural home remedies are effective in killing the measles virus, or reducing the likelihood of being infected. Here are our thoughts, from the perspective of professionals in the biohazard remediation industry.

How is measles spread?

An infected person is contagious up to four days before they experience the telltale rash, and then up to four days following the rash’s appearance. If they don’t know they’re sick, they’re more likely to come in contact with susceptible people. The measles virus lives in the nasal passages, but it’s often found elsewhere on the ill person’s body, such as hands and clothing. If an infected person sneezes, the virus goes airborne and lands on surfaces in the immediate area. The measles virus can be inhaled, or transferred to surfaces, people, and mucous membranes by touch.

If a non-vaccinated person comes in contact with the virus—and in reality, it only takes being within several feet of the contagious individual—there is a 90% chance they will contract the disease. Crowded indoor places such as schools, offices, churches, and detention facilities provide ideal outbreak conditions.

If I’m vaccinated, can I still get measles?

Vaccinated individuals with compromised immunity, and children too young to receive their vaccinations are at a higher risk of contracting measles. They’re also more likely to experience potentially fatal complications. They depend on herd immunity to serve as a buffer, reducing the chances that child sneezing on them or the adult shaking their hand at a meeting isn’t passing along the virus.

Some vaccinated people are still at risk of contracting measles. These include people who are:

  • Elderly
  • Undernourished
  • Recovering from a serious illness or surgery
  • Taking medications to suppress their immune systems (transplant and implant patients, for example)

A very small number of people experience severe allergic reactions to their first measles shots, and are unable to receive their second. They’re more likely to contract measles than a fully-vaccinated person. Others have medical conditions that prevent them from receiving the vaccine.

Immunity can taper off in some adults later in age. Anyone can ask their doctor to check their immunity levels with a blood test called a quantitative serum titer. If you need to increase your immunity levels, you can get a booster or, if your levels are very low, another course of the vaccine.

How do I clean an area infected by the measles virus?

You may be tempted to call us to sanitize every surface of every object, vehicle, home, or office within your control. We don’t blame you, since we wouldn’t want our loved ones to get sick, either. But to be honest, our professional decontamination services would be overkill, since the measles virus only lives outside the body for up to two hours. (And no, our pets can’t get it, either; it’s strictly a human disease.)

Our best advice, if you or a loved one are at risk of contracting measles, is to wash your hands regularly and thoroughly with soap and warm water. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth, especially when you’re out in public, as the virus enters the body through the mucous membranes and respiratory system. Wipe down potentially contaminated, frequently-touched surfaces with your usual household disinfectant. Use paper towels or wipes, which should be discarded immediately after.

The other option? Let the room air out for a couple hours, after which time the virus is no longer viable.

If you’re caring for a person with measles, keep them home and keep them in a comfortable in a limited area: A bedroom with access to a bathroom, for example. This will allow at-risk household members to safely move about, and restrict the area you’ll need to disinfect. Change clothes and thoroughly wash your hands and face before going out and interacting with the public so you don’t transfer the virus by means of touch.

Why does Bio Recovery know so much about cleaning up infectious diseases?

As virulent and dangerous as measles is, we’re all lucky it only lives outside the body for a short time. Other communicable diseases remain viable much longer:

  • Candida auris: Indefinitely
  • Ebola: Five to 14 days
  • Hepatitis A: Several months
  • Hepatitis B: One week
  • Hepatitis C: Four days
  • MRSA: Several months or more, especially on dry surfaces
  • Norovirus: Weeks to months, depending on surface

And that’s where we come in. Bio Recovery has been leading the biohazard cleaning industry for nearly two decades, decontaminating bloodborne pathogens and sites contaminated during outbreaks. We are perhaps the only biohazard control company with on-the-job experience cleaning up both Ebola and anthrax. On a day-to-day basis, we sanitize homes, offices, medical facilities, personal and emergency vehicles, schools, and correctional facilities where the inhabitants are at risk of contracting diseases carried through blood, feces, phlegm, saliva, and other body fluids.

Stay healthy. Protect yourself and your family with vaccinations, regular hand washing, and healthy habits. If you do need our biohazard remediation services, contact us 24/7, and we’ll be there.