The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have reported that cases of measles are on the rise in the United States. A Washington Post article that was published on April 24, 2014, points out that (at the time of publishing) 129 people, in 13 states, across the United States, had been infected with measles in the first four months of 2014. The CDC says this is the biggest measles outbreak in the United States since 1996.
The CDC website points out that measles is a highly contagious disease, and that it can be very serious for young children. The CDC recommends that parents make sure that their children are up to date on their vaccinations and fully immunized. This is especially true for families that are planning on traveling outside of the United States.
The MMR vaccine protects against measles, mumps, and rubella. It has been proven to be very safe and effective. Two doses of this vaccine are needed in order for a child to have complete protection from those diseases. The CDC says the first dose of the MMR vaccine should be given at 12 to 15 months of age. The second dose can be given 4 weeks later. However, it is usually given before the start of kindergarten, when the child is between 4 and 6 years of age.
There are some parents who are choosing to avoid immunizing their child against measles, mumps, and rubella because they think that the MMR vaccine causes autism. These parents probably mean well, but they have been given misleading information. The work done by Andrew Wakefield has been renounced, removed from the medical journal Lancet (where it was published) and debunked. The MMR vaccine does not cause autism.
Parent who are unsure what to do should, at the very least, consider how dangerous measles is. It is caused by a virus. The virus can be easily spread through coughing and sneezing. Measles can be deadly.
It starts with a fever, which can get very high. After that, a child who has measles will have a cough, runny nose, and red eyes. Next, a rash of tiny, red spots breaks out, starting at the head, and spreading over the rest of the body. The rash can last a week, and the coughing can last 10 days.
About 1 in 10 children who catch measles will also get an ear infection. Up to 1 out of 20 kids who catch measles will also get pneumonia. About one out of every 1,000 children who catch measles will get encephalitis (which is a brain swelling that can leave children deaf or mentally impaired). The CDC says that 1 or 2 out of every 1,000 children who catch measles die from it. You can prevent your child from catching measles by making sure that he or she is fully immunized.
Image by Quinn Dombrowski on Flickr.