Measles was eradicated in the United States in the year 2000. Over the last three years, however, the World Health Organization reports that measles has been on the rise globally.
So far this year, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) have reported outbreaks in California, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Illinois, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Texas, and Washington. More than 200 cases have been confirmed in Orthodox Jewish communities in New York and New Jersey, where the outbreaks have been tied to travelers from Israel, where measles is still common. Vaccination rates are low in this community. The Washington state outbreak is associated with international travelers, too — and with a low vaccination rate in the region, where only 81% of children under five have received the vaccine. Other outbreaks have also taken place in communities with low vaccination rates.
Arkansas is one of 17 states allowing parents to choose not to have their children vaccinated on the basis of personal preference. According to the Democrat Gazette, Northwest Arkansas has a particularly large number of unvaccinated children. This means that Northwest Arkansas is relatively likely to see a measles outbreak. However, no cases have been confirmed locally this year.
Measles is very contagious
Two doses of measles vaccine provides 97% protection from measles. People who have had measles also become immune. Without this protection, 90% of those exposed to measles can expect to develop the disease.
Contagious diseases spread in different ways. Some bacteria and viruses cannot live on a dry surface. Some are transmitted from one person to another through close contact. The rubeola virus which causes measles is transmitted through the air. It lives in an infected person’s body for three to four days before rashes show up, so kids will be contagious before they know they’re ill.
The virus can live in the air for hours. This means that an unprotected person can catch measles in a room where an infected person has been, even after they’ve left.
Because of the danger of contagion, Northwest Arkansas Pediatrics does not serve unvaccinated children.
Measles is a dangerous disease
Before measles vaccination became the norm in the United States, the CDC received reports of about 500,000 cases each year. 400 to 500 deaths were caused each year by measles.
Measles can also cause encephalitis, an inflammation of the brain. Before measles vaccines, the CDC could expect to see about 1,000 cases of encephalitis caused by measles each year.
Encephalitis can be mild, but it can also cause permanent brain damage. It can even be fatal.
Other complications of measles include ear infections, pneumonia, and diarrhea. Measles can lead to deafness, and pneumonia is the most common cause of death from measles.
Should you worry about measles?
At present, measles is not making a comeback in the United States. So far, all American outbreaks have been traced to international travelers. However, the World Health Organization has identified “vaccine hesitancy” as one of the top ten health threats worldwide in 2019.
The Disney World outbreak in 2015 was traced to one unvaccinated 11 year old child. His parents’ decision not to have him vaccinated led to at least 125 cases of measles in multiple states.
Don’t worry about measles. Get your children vaccinated on schedule. You’ll protect your child and our community.