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Measles Update: To Vaccinate or Not, Is this the question?

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The current measles outbreak which appears to have originated in California and has most likely been traced (according to CNN and other media reports) to an Arizona family who visited a Disney theme park, whose children apparently were not vaccinated with the MMR (Measles-Mumps-Rubella) vaccine. Family members contracted measles and subsequently may have exposed an estimated 195 other people including children (Dr. Elizabeth Cohen, CNN-TV, January 30, 2015).

The re-occurrence of the measles virus in this stunning way has reignited the controversy over whether or not to vaccinate children against measles. According to CNN news this evening, California statistics presently show that measles cases are on the rise, with cases occurring 44% more frequently than in the previous year. Fifty-two of the current cases are linked to the Disneyland outbreak. The number of cases presently is 91 actively occurring in 14 states. A school district in California has informed parents of 66 children that their children who were not vaccinated with the MMR vaccine must remain at home.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) recent statement quoted in The Washington Post (1/22/15) calls measles “so contagious that if one person has it, 90% of the people close to that person who are not immune will also become infected.” (Morning Mix, The Washington Post, Fred Barbash, January 22, 2015, Washington, D.C.)

On its website, CDC advises measles “is a highly contagious respiratory disease caused by a virus” which can spread easily–through microdroplets from an unchecked sneeze or coughing. Contracting measles at any age can have serious effects on the body, and disastrous effects if the victim already has a challenged immune system, is ill, is an infant or is elderly. Symptoms are: fever, runny nose, cough, reddened eyes, sore throat, followed by a rash which spreads all over the body. Lymph glands may also swell. Measles can cause deafness, brain damage, blindness and death. Please see http://www.cdc.gov/measles/ for details. The United States experienced a record number of cases in 2014: 644 cases in 27 states. (The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, Georgia, http://www.cdc.gov/measles/cases-outbreaks.html).

In years past, measles was the single biggest cause of blindness in children in low-income, developing countries, causing blindness in an estimated 15,000 to 60,000 children annually (PubMed.gov, Surv Ophthalmol. 2004 Mar-Apr;49(2):243-55.).
Those who oppose vaccinating their children are concerned that vaccines may be toxic, have deleterious effects, or that vaccines do not appear to be working as well as they did. The CDC maintains that it’s not that the vaccine isn’t working, it’s that it isn’t being used! Some parents are choosing not to vaccinate their children–because they are questioning the efficacy and the effects of vaccines in general. However, the unchecked spread of measles is very distressing to the medical community and makes the rest of the population more vulnerable to the effects of measles.

I personally can attest to the fact that getting measles at any age is no picnic. I contracted measles at age 28 from a neighbor’s child I babysat–and due to my age, it was a protracted and uncomfortable recovery. Measles at any age is serious.

Parents, family members and caregivers of young children, please talk with your primary care provider or pediatrician and make sure to get all your questions about Measles, Mumps and Rubella and the MMR vaccine answered as soon as possible.

If you think your child may have the virus, please call your Primary Care Provider as soon as possible and ask for instructions immediately!

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