Measles is making a comeback — even though there’s a vaccine that can help prevent it. During the past five months there have been more than 500 reported cases of measles in the United States.
That’s the highest number of cases since 2000, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the numbers continue to climb.
Nearly all the outbreaks can be traced to an unvaccinated individual who contracted the disease while traveling abroad. The majority of people who subsequently caught the disease were unvaccinated.
“We thought we had nearly eradicated measles in the United States,” says Dr. Amber Hyde, a family medical physician on the staff at Methodist Mansfield Medical Center. “But measles has reemerged as a public health issue because large numbers of individuals aren’t vaccinated.”
Measles remains the eighth-leading cause of mortality worldwide and the greatest vaccine-preventable cause of death among children. Studies show that unvaccinated children are 35 times more likely to contract the disease than immunized children.
“When unvaccinated people from the U.S. travel to other countries, they can get measles. And when they return, they can spread the disease,” Hyde says.
Hyde recommends you know the symptoms of measles.
“Measles starts with a fever, a cough, a runny nose and red eyes. Next, a rash of red spots breaks out all over the body,” she says. “Children with measles may also get an ear infection, or they may have diarrhea. Measles is highly contagious, and it can be serious. It can cause pneumonia and swelling of the brain. Some children even die from measles.
“Protecting your child from measles is the easiest step you can take,” Hyde says. “As a parent, make sure your child’s measles vaccine is up to date.”
The vaccination is named MMR and is safe and effective. It’s a combination vaccine that protects against measles, mumps and rubella (German measles). Children require two doses of this vaccine. Usually the first is given at 12 to 15 months of age and the second when the child is 4 to 6 years old. Adults may also receive the vaccine.
Summer is a great time to practice healthy habits, including getting appropriate vaccinations to best protect you and your family from the measles outbreak. It’s also a great time for an annual physical to get screened for blood pressure, cholesterol, glucose, thyroid and other health conditions. Early detection and prevention is the key for living a long, healthy life.
Pledge yourself to better health today and learn more about your health at MethodistHealthSystem.org.