Prevention is possible: What you need to know about measles
Special to The Union
Measles: Key Facts
— Even though a safe and cost-effective vaccine is available, in 2017 there were 110,000 measles deaths globally. Most of those deaths were children under the age of five.
— Measles vaccination resulted in a 80% drop in measles deaths between 2000 and 2017 worldwide.
— In 2017, about 85 percent of the world’s children received one dose of the measles vaccine by their first birthday – up from 72 percent in 2000.
— Between 2000-2017, measles vaccination prevented an estimated 21.1 million deaths, making the measles vaccine one of the most effective in public health.
(Source: World Health Organization)
2019 is proving to be an especially active year for the measles virus. According to a report by the World Health Organization, there are 110,000 cases worldwide so far – a 300 percent increase over the same period last year.
Though the virus was considered to be eradicated within the US since 2000, it is still introduced by travelers each year from outside the country.
In fact, twenty states within the US are reporting cases of the measles this year. According to the California Department of Public Health, 21 cases are from California, with three reported from neighboring Placer County.
Measles is highly contagious and spreads easily through coughing and sneezing. The virus can live in the air for up to two hours after a cough or sneeze and is spread by breathing contaminated air or touching an infected surface.
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Measles can be spread by an infected person beginning four days prior to the onset of the rash and up to four days after the rash erupts.
Though most measles cases resolve themselves without complication, the medical community keeps a keen eye on the spread of the disease because it can lead to severe complications which may include pneumonia, swelling of the brain, convulsions and death.
In fact, prior to the measles vaccine being introduced in the US in 1967, over 400 deaths were attributed to the measles each year. According to the CDC, in 1920, 7,575 deaths were associated with measles in the US.
Today, the measles vaccination (known as the MMR) is highly effective in protecting individuals against measles, mumps, and rubella (German measles). The last measles death in our country was reported in 2015.
Standard symptoms of the measles include a high fever along with cough, runny nose and runny eyes. Symptoms are followed by a red, blotchy rash. Some people may also experience an ear infection or diarrhea with the virus.
Vaccination rates have fluctuated over the years, but since 2016, children in California are required to be immunized prior to entering public school, private school, or child care, unless there is a medical exemption.
This higher vaccination rate is likely the reason that California isn’t currently experiencing an outbreak of measles similar to what is seen in other states, including New York. Recent outbreaks in the US are primarily attributed to communities with decreased vaccination rates.
The CDC points out that immunizations are considered critical to the health of individuals and communities. It is recommended that adults who have not had measles or have not been vaccinated should get vaccinated as well.
According to the CDC, the MMR vaccine is recommended for children in two doses: the first dose at 12 through 15 months of age, and the second dose at 4 through 6 years of age.
The current measles outbreak highlights the debate over vaccination. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, vaccine safety studies are constantly conducted and published. The studies have shown these vaccines to be a safe and effective way to prevent measles and many other communicable diseases.
Please speak with your primary care provider about whether you or your children are up-to-date on your vaccinations. Remember to bring any immunization records to that appointment.
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