Photography by Tomasz Trojanowski for 123RF

Salons that deal with the public—in other words, all salons—should be aware of an uninvited returning visitor: measles.

The measles virus, which has been declared eliminated from the United States since 2000, has snuck back through our borders in alarming numbers through unvaccinated travelers who have contracted measles in other countries, particularly the Philippines. With nearly 300 Americans infected this year, the U.S. is experiencing the largest outbreak since 1994, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

Typically, measles starts with a high fever, followed by a cough and runny nose before the skin breaks out in the signature red spots. Measles is highly contagious; if your salon shares a ventilation system with other businesses, essentially you and your clients will be exposed to the virus if an infected person is anywhere in the building.

The best way to protect yourself is through the MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine. CDC recommends two MMR doses for everyone starting at age 12 months or at age 6 months for a baby traveling abroad. If you’re traveling abroad and are unsure whether you’ve been vaccinated, CDC recommends receiving the vaccine. 

Although most people who contract measles get through the ordeal without harm, the disease can be serious and even deadly. Worldwide, measles is responsible for an estimated 122,000 deaths each year.