Measles: Should You Be Worried?

Posted On Thursday, 05 February 2015
Measles: Should You Be Worried?

Unless you are living in a bubble, you've most likely heard about the measles outbreak currently going on in the US. A foreigner traveler with the measles visited Disneyland in December of 2014 exposing countless individuals.

Fast-forward a month and we are up to 102 cases in the first month 2015. Majority of the cases are in southern California, but there are now 14 states reporting cases of the measles, including Arizona where we just had tens of thousands of people visit for the Super Bowl.

And while it seems there is no shortage of opinions, anecdotes and rhetoric flying around, many parents still find it hard to get basic information about what is measles, what should they do, and do they need to worry.

For some parents this information will bring peace of mind, for others it may sway them to reconsider the pros and cons of a non-vaccination choice.

Who is most at risk of contracting Measles?

If your child is one of the 1 in 12 children who don't get the Measles vaccine on time, then they are at risk. Non-vaccinated adults and partially vaccinated children and adults are also at risk.

What is the risk?

If a non-vaccinated person is exposed to the Measles virus they have a 90% chance of contracting it. That means for every 10 non-vaccinated people exposed 9 of them will get the Measles.

What is my chance of being exposed?

Measles is one of the most highly contagious viruses. It is able to linger in the air and on surfaces well after an infected person has left the vicinity. Simply walking into an area 2 hours after an infected person has left exposes you.

Think about boarding an airplane, or going through security at an airport or a sporting event. Think about a school cafeteria, a shopping mall. In busy places, just one infected person would expose countless individuals.

After a person has been exposed it can take 10-21 days to develop the Measles.

What's the big deal if I get Measles anyway?

  • 1 in 4 patients who get the measles will be hospitalized.
  • Many of them will get pneumonia, which can lead to death.
  • 1 in a 1000 will get encephalitis or an inflammation of the brain.
  • 1 in 500 will die.
  • Worldwide over 100,000 people die from the Measles every year.

Those most at risk of complications from the Measles are those who are:

  • Unvaccinated especially children under 5 years old and over 20 years old.
  • Infants who are too young to be vaccinated.
  • Individuals who are immune-compromised or on chemotherapy .
  • Unvaccinated pregnant women are at increased risk of miscarriages and preterm labor.

Because of the highly infectious nature of this virus, some schools are enacting a 21-day quarantine for unvaccinated, exposed students. The logic is that since the disease spreads through communities predominately through unvaccinated individuals, by banning these students from school, they can slow the progression of the disease through the community.

When is a person contagious with the Measles?

A person with the Measles is contagious for about 8 days, 4 before the onset of a high fever and rash and for about 4 days after.

How do I know if I have the Measles?

At first, a person with the Measles will just have a mild respiratory illness with a low temperature, irritated eyes, a runny nose and a harsh dry cough. After about 3-4 days the fever becomes very high and a blotchy red rash begins on the head and travels down the body. A person may also develop Koplik spots – tiny whitish spots on the inner cheek.

If you think you or your child may have the Measles, CALL your doctor before going in so that they can minimize the exposure to other patients in the waiting room.

How effective is the Measles vaccine?

After the 1st dose, the vaccine is 93% effective. Meaning for every 100 people, 7 will not develop immunity. After the second dose that number drops to 3 people, or in other words, after receiving the recommended two doses of the vaccine 97% of people are immune.

How do I know if my child or I have been fully vaccinated?

If you do not know your or your child's immunization status you should contact your doctor. If you think your child may have fallen behind or missed a Measles vaccine or if you yourself have never been vaccinated, it is never too late to get vaccinated.

The normal vaccination schedule is a two-dose sequence with the first dose at 12-15 months and the 2nd dose at 4-5 years.

My child is under 12 months of age is there anything I can do?

Children between 6 and 11 months of age can be vaccinated early depending on their risk of exposure. Children who will be traveling to an exposed area or overseas should be vaccinated with 1 dose. We don't routinely vaccinate children between the ages of 6-11 months with the Measles vaccine not because it is dangerous but because many children still have antibodies from their mother's and this makes their own response to the vaccine less effective. Parents who are worried about their child's exposure should contact their physician.

My child is not yet 4, can they get the second dose?

Again this is something that parents should discuss with their child's doctor, but as long as it has been 28 days since the first dose a child is eligible for the second dose.

Depending on a child's exposure risk, parents may opt to give the second dose early.

I know the Measles vaccine doesn't cause autism and that those studies have been retracted. But what about the argument that vaccines are unnatural? I want my child to remain pure and not inject them with stuff.

Without interference, the natural occurrence of Measles in this country was 3-4 million cases a year. Allowing nature to take its course, would lead to about 48,000 hospitalizations, 4000 cases of encephalitis and between 400-500 deaths a year in the U.S.

Naturally, Measles is a highly infectious virus which can causes severe complications and death.

If we want to avoid what is the NATURAL course of this disease, then we need to thwart nature and get VACCINATED.

Source:Centers For Disease Control

For more information on Measles and your family's risk listen in as Dr. Cross joins Melanie Cole, MS on Healthy Children.

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