Parents should vaccinate children to protect them from this contagious disease
09-13-2013 (Dayton, OH) -
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently reported that this year is on track to be the worst year for measles in more than a decade, reporting 159 cases so far this year. Dayton Children’s Hospital has not seen any cases of measles, but the hospital’s infectious disease experts want to calm parent’s fears of an outbreak in the area and remind them of the importance of vaccinating their children.
“The most important thing you can do to protect kids from measles is to have them vaccinated,” says Sherman Alter, MD, medical director of infectious disease at Dayton Children’s. “Measles is a highly contagious disease and one that we can protect our children from if we follow the recommendations set-up by the CDC.”
Measles, also called rubella, is a respiratory infection that's caused by a virus. It causes a total-body skin rash and flu-like symptoms, including a fever, cough, and runny nose.
Because measles is so highly contagious — 90 percent of people who haven't been vaccinated for measles will get it if they live in the same household with an infected person. Measles is spread when someone comes in direct contact with infected droplets or when someone with the measles sneezes or coughs and spreads virus droplets through the air.
In 2000, the government declared that measles was “eliminated” from the United States. Unfortunately, there continues to be periodic outbreaks of measles. Outbreaks in both New York (a total of 58 cases of the measles) and North Carolina (22 cases) have been documented within the last seven months. In both areas, travelers with measles returned to the United States unaware of their infectious status which led to the outbreak in people who were either:
- Never vaccinated with measles vaccine (e.g., most cases occurred among a few members of religious groups who refused immunization)
- Delayed receiving the MMR (measles-mumps-rubella) vaccine or
- Were too young (infants under the age of 1 year) to have received the MMR vaccine.
According to Dr. Alter, there have been no cases of measles at Dayton Children’s since the late 1980s or early 1990s.
Infants are generally protected from measles for 6 months after birth due to immunity passed on from their mothers. Older kids are usually immunized against measles according to state and school health regulations.
For most kids, the measles vaccine is part of the measles-mumps-rubella immunization (MMR) or measles-mumps-rubella-varicella immunization (MMRV) given at 12-15 months of age and again at 4- 6 years of age.
The measles vaccine is not usually given to infants younger than 12 months old. But if there's a measles outbreak, or a child will be traveling outside the United States, the vaccine may be given when a child is 6-11 months old, followed by the usual MMR immunization at 12-15 months and 4-6 years.
As with all immunization schedules, there are important exceptions and special circumstances. Your doctor will have the most current information regarding recommendations about the measles immunization.
The measles vaccine should not be given to these at-risk groups:
- Pregnant women
- Kids with untreated tuberculosis, leukemia or other cancers
- People whose immune systems are suppressed for any reason
- Kids who have a history of severe allergic reaction to gelatin or to the antibiotic neomycin, as they are at risk for serious reactions
For women who are not pregnant and people not in one of the other at-risk groups mentioned above, the measles vaccine may offer some protection if given within 72 hours of measles exposure.
When to Call the Doctor
Call the doctor immediately if you suspect that your child has measles
Remember that measles, a once common childhood disease, is preventable through routine childhood immunization.
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