The Dangers of Being Misinformed: Latest Measles Outbreak

USA Today covered the latest measles outbreak in today’s print edition (see story: Texas Measles Outbreak Linked to Church).  Since measles is still common in many parts of the world, travelers can bring it into the country and infect adults and children who have not been vaccinated. This latest outbreak resulted when a visitor to Eagle Mountain International Church in Newark, Texas spread the disease to other members and visitors of the church after contracting the disease while traveling overseas. A church leader has been critical of measles vaccinations in the past, and of the 15 cases linked to the church, at least 12 people were not fully immunized against measles.

As the article states, ‘The country’s safety net has become more porous in recent years. Although overall vaccination rates remain high, communities of like-minded parents who refuse immunizations for their children have been vulnerable to outbreaks.’

This latest outbreak has public health officials worried that the disease could spread rapidly, and are urging people to get vaccinated.

Measles is a highly contagious respiratory disease caused by a virus. Symptoms include fever, runny nose, cough and a rash all over the body. Complications from measles can be serious. They occur more commonly in children younger than 5 years old and adults 20 years of age or older. For every 1,000 children who get measles, one or two will die from the disease. In fact, worldwide, measles is still a significant cause of vaccine-preventable death among children. In 2008, there were about 164,000 measles deaths worldwide-that equals 450 deaths every day or 18 deaths every hour. (Source: CDC)

Thanks to vaccines, very few children get measles in the U.S. today. The measles vaccine is usually given as part of a combination vaccine that provides protection against three diseases: measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR). This vaccine is strongly endorsed by medical and public health experts as safe and effective.

According to the CDC, the number of people in the U.S. with measles has decreased by more than 99% since a measles vaccine was licensed in 1963. But, to keep people protected against measles, high vaccination rates must be maintained.

CDC recommends that children get two doses-the first dose at 12 through 15 months of age and the second dose before entering school at 4 through 6 years of age. For more information on the CDC recommended vaccination schedules, please visit http://www.cdc.gov/Features/Measles/.

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