An increasing number of measles cases reported in the United States has health officials urging parents to vaccinate their children and be aware of the disease’s symptoms.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a public health alert in late January after a spike in U.S. cases. The CDC attributed the increase to a visit to Disneyland, California, by an infected person in December 2014. CDC says that between Jan. 1 and Feb. 13, 2015, a total of 141 cases of measles were reported; of those, 113 were linked to the Disneyland case.
Measles is a highly contagious virus that can be transmitted through exposure to coughing or sneezing by an infected person. The virus is active in the air and on surfaces up to two hours after the infected person leaves an area. Early symptoms include fever, cough, runny nose and “pink eye” (conjunctivitis), typically lasting 2-4 days, followed by a red, bumpy rash. The infected person is contagious up to four days before and four days after the rash shows up. Several serious health complications can result from measles, including pneumonia and encephalitis; it can also cause death, according to the CDC.
Health officials say the best way to protect a child from contracting measles is through the vaccine, which is given in two doses. Introduced in 1963, the vaccine has proven to be highly effective with a low risk of side effects. The CDC says the first dose is 93 percent effective; the second dose brings the effectiveness to 97 percent. (Read CDC’s Measles Outbreak: Protect Your Child With MMR Vaccin.)
Yet, like all vaccines, the measles vaccine is not without controversy. Some parents say it is their right to refuse to vaccinate a child. Others question whether other disorders, such as autism, can be attributed to the measles vaccine. According to the CDC, there is no evidence to link the rise in autism to the measles vaccine. In 2008, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services issued a statement that, “HRSA (the Health Resources and Services Administration) has reviewed the scientific information concerning the allegation that vaccines cause autism and has found no credible evidence to support the claim.” (Read the American Academy of Pediatrics’ Facts for Parents About Vaccine Safety.)
Measles has been around a long time (the first record of its existence dates back to the 9th century), but the vaccine developed in the United States in the early 1960s had pretty much eradicated the disease in this country by 2000, according to CDC.
“Measles was declared eliminated (i.e., interruption of year-round endemic transmission) in the United States in 2000, because of high population immunity achieved by high 2-dose measles vaccine coverage and a highly effective measles vaccine,” according to a CDC health alert issued in late January.
“However, measles is still endemic in many parts of the world, and outbreaks can occur in the U.S. when unvaccinated groups are exposed to imported measles virus.”
There are some people who should not be vaccinated, including pregnant women. Read the full list of who should not be vaccinated or should wait at the CDC site.
For more information, check out CDC’s Frequently Asked Questions page.
Forbes offers an interesting read in Five Things To Know About The Disneyland Measles Outbreak.
Read about one mom’s reaction to her infant son’s possible exposure to measles in the CBS News story, Wait Almost Over for Angry as Hell Mom, Baby Exposed to Measles.
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