Measles: What’s all the fuss about?

Why is everyone so worked up about the measles showing up all around the country? Is it really a big deal?

Measles is a big deal. If you understand that, you can stop reading right now. If you’re not sure why it’s so important that we vaccinate against this disease, read on. If you’re worried about the vaccine and haven’t protected your children with it, you need to learn about the disease.

Measles is highly contagious.

But it’s also preventable.

If all eligible persons are vaccinated, we can protect those who can’t be vaccinated due to young age or medical condition. This herd immunity is very important to our communities. Sadly, our herd is not protective at this point. Too many are not vaccinating due to unwarranted fears. This leaves too many vulnerable to disease, which allows infection to spread rapidly.

There are a very limited number of conditions that are true medical exemptions, but if herd immunity is high enough we can keep measles from spreading. Using false exemptions drops that herd immunity rate, leading to outbreaks like we’re seeing now.

We’ve been getting a lot of questions about the vaccine and the risks of the disease, so here’s a quick run down of the risks of a measles infection. I’ll cover the vaccines in the next post.

Why worry?

Measles is highly contagious and can be deadly.

Symptoms commonly include fever, rash, diarrhea, pneumonia, and ear infections.

Subacute sclerosing panencephalitis (SSPE) is a rare form of chronic progressive brain inflammation caused by measles virus. It can show up many years after someone is presumed to be healed from the disease, much like shingles can affect a person years after chicken pox disease.

For every 1,000 reported measles cases in the US, approximately 1 case of encephalitis (brain inflammation) and 2-3 deaths is found. The risk for death is greater for infants, young children, and adults than for older children and adolescents.

How contagious is measles?

Measles can be spread through the air of a room 2 hours after an infected person leaves. The rash doesn’t usually appear until approximately 14 days after exposure, 2 to 4 days after the fever begins.

A person is contagious 4 days before the rash starts, so can unknowingly spread the infection for days. They remain contagious for another 4 days after the rash starts.

Over 90% of susceptible people who are exposed will get sick.

Are you willing to put your kids at risk by delaying the vaccine knowing the risks of natural infection?

Why is everyone so worked up about the measles showing up all around the country? Is it really a big deal? @pediatricskc

What vaccines are available?

There are two types of measles vaccines in the United States: MMR and MMRV.

There is no longer a separate measles vaccine.

We’ll go into these options next time. Stay tuned!

Update: Here’s Measles: All about the measles vaccines

Author: DrStuppy

I am a pediatrician and mother of two teens. I have a passion for sharing health related information.

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