If you’ve spent any time at all on Facebook or Twitter lately, you’ve undoubtedly come across a multitude of people talking about measles. Some people are more tactful about sharing their views about vaccinations than others. No matter what your personal viewpoint happens to be, there are some things you should know about the measles outbreak.
There is a measles outbreak going on.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports that there were at least 102 reported cases of measles in 14 states as of February 1, 2015. CDC Director Tom Frieden warns that the United States could see a large outbreak of measles.
Most, but not all, of these cases, have been linked to the several dozen people who were exposed to the measles at Disneyland in Anaheim, California, and who were not vaccinated. Director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, Dr. Anne Shuchat said: “This is not a problem of the measles vaccine not working. This is a problem of the measles vaccine not being used.”
How is measles spread?
Measles is a highly contagious virus It lives in the nose and throat mucus of a person who is infected with measles. The measles virus can be spread to others through coughing and sneezing. Once in the air, the measles virus can live for up to two hours on a surface or in an airspace where an infected person coughed or sneezed.
In other words, a person who has not been vaccinated against measles can catch the measles virus by walking through an area where an infected person coughed or sneezed up to two hours later. It is an airborne virus, and is also transmitted through touching a surface that the virus is sitting on.
Things to know about the measles vaccine.
The measles vaccine is about 93% effective at preventing measles if exposed to the virus and two doses is about 97% effective. The Surgeon General, Vivek Murthy points out that an unvaccinated person would have a 90% chance of catching the measles virus upon exposure.
Some doctors are refusing to see unvaccinated patients.
There are some doctors who have decided to no longer see patients who are children if their parents refuse to get their child vaccinated. The doctors are doing this out of concern for the other patients in their waiting room, some of whom are too young to be given the MMR vaccine. Infants, the elderly, and people who have compromised immune systems cannot have the vaccine and must rely on herd immunity to prevent themselves from catching measles.
Some doctors who used to advise against vaccines are being asked for the MMR vaccine.
Dr. Jay Gordon, of Santa Monica, California, has written books in favor of letting parents choose not to vaccinate their children. Since the measles outbreak, he has many patients come in asking for their children to be given the MMR vaccine. He is administering the vaccine as requested.
Image by Dave Haygarth on Flickr.