Just over a decade ago, measles in the United States was a relic of days past, because it was effectively controlled by vaccinations given throughout childhood. Yet today, the Nation is facing a widespread measles outbreak, which has 100 confirmed cases and a number of high-alert situations in schools and hospitals. Read on for insight into the current state of the measles outbreak and the steps necessary to get this disease back under control.
The danger of measles
Measles is a virus similar in many ways to the chicken pox, beginning with a fever, runny nose and cough, later causing a rash that spreads all over the body. Once a person has had measles, he or she cannot contract the virus again, though the virus tends to cause the most severe symptoms in adult patients. While measles is a benign condition in many patients, it can also cause severe complications, including pneumonia, secondary infections, and even death. In some cases, measles can lead to the development of neurologic illness later in life, even when the disease initially presented as an acute illness.
December measles outbreak
Measles has been making headlines since December due to an outbreak originating in Disneyland, likely of foreign origin. To date, 58 of the 100 confirmed cases of measles in the United States are believed to be linked to the December outbreak, which has quickly spread to Arizona, Colorado, Illinois, Minnesota, Michigan, Nebraska, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Texas, and Utah.
Measles vaccination decline
Since 2000, when measles was completely eliminated from the U.S., there has been an anti-vaccination movement, causing many parents to forgo measles immunization for their children. What these parents do not consider is herd immunity, which occurs when a significant section of the population has been vaccinated. Populations where the vaccination rate dips below 95% are much more susceptible to outbreaks, and California is currently at a 92% vaccination rate. Because most cases of the measles in the current outbreak are in unvaccinated individuals, the CDC recommends that all children have measles vaccines on the appropriate schedule for effective prevention and management of this virus.
One of the primary arguments among anti-vaccination crusaders is the fact that people who have been vaccinated can still contract the disease. However, there would be less exposure to the disease in general if more children were vaccinated. Plus, there are factors that are not considered in this general argument. For example, the measles vaccine has a higher failure rate when there are not follow-up doses given to patients before grade school and before college. When proper guidelines are followed for measles vaccination, patients should consider themselves immune to the virus.
If you have concerns about your or your child’s risk for measles, click here to speak with a licensed, local physician online.