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Medical News of the Week: Why Are Measles Making a Comeback in the U.S.?

Guest : Bruce Lobitz, MD
Summary: The CDC says that they are seeing the highest number of measles cases in the US since 2000.
Air Date: 6/6/14
Duration: 10
Host: Leigh Vinocur, MD
Medical News of the Week: Why Are Measles Making a Comeback in the U.S.?
Are the measles making a comeback?

The CDC says that they are seeing the highest number of measles cases in the United States since 2000 with over 300 cases reported so far.

Why? What are the measles and how can you prevent the disease?

Back in the year 2000, the U.S. thought it had "eliminated" the disease.

Since then, a lot of press and attention has been paid to people not getting vaccinations due to various reasons, from Hollywood celebrities "taking a stand" to people with religious principles.

State governments and regulations are getting stricter in some aspects, but the measles still has become a public health issue.

So, how can this newly-raised problem be addressed?

There is a concept called "herd humanity," which says that as long as people do their duty as American citizens, it is good for the public as a whole. So, for instance, as long as approximately 95% of the population vaccinates, the community as a whole is mostly protected.

Unfortunately, not all individuals and communities adhere to that concept. For example, one of the recent outbreaks of measles occurred in Ohio in an Amish community, where vaccination rates are around 20%. One of the members traveled to a country where measles is still a huge issue, and brought the disease back.

While there have been no deaths reported thus far, if the trend continues, there WILL be deaths in the future.

What does measles look like?

It's been so long since this has been a problem, that many younger doctors are ill equipped to deal with it.

The disease presents as a typical virus infection with a rash. Children may experience a fever for 2-4 days, as well as coughing and red, watery eyes (similar to pink eye). Eventually the classic red spots will appear. The rash generally starts at head and face and spreads down to the feet. Unfortunately, the rash doesn't come until about two weeks after the child is infected, leaving opportunity for transmission.

The problem with measles is the complications that can occur, which can't really be predicted. Viral pneumonia is one complication, which, of course cannot be treated with antibiotics. Encephalitis, an infection of the brain, also cannot be treated.

Dr. Bruce Lobitz joins Dr. Leigh to discuss the recent increase in measles cases, as well as what you should look out for as far as symptoms in your own child.
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