Tuesday, April 29, 2014
There has been recent concern regarding announcements of measles outbreaks in our area. Indeed measles is one of the most contagious viral diseases, spread by respiratory droplets and contact. It can cause high fever, rash, conjunctivitis, pneumonia, and seizures, and can be fatal. Each case carries with it a real risk of a devastating neurological disorder, called Subacute Sclerosing Panencephalitis that can develop years after the initial case of the disease. As of January of this year, there have been total of 25 cases of measles in New York (12 children and 13 adults). Thus-far in 2014, there have been a total of over 120 confirmed cases of the measles in the United States. Compare that to 37-140 cases per year, or less than 1 per million in the population with good vaccination rates.
The infection is most contagious 4 days prior to onset of the rash and up to 4 days after the rash appears. This means that measles can easily spread before the initial patient even realizes he or she is sick. Prior to the vaccine, there were over 500,000 cases of measles infection yearly with 500 deaths per year. The recent upsurge in measles cases has been attributed to lack of vaccination for various reasons.
What are we as parents and those who care for children to do to protect our children? It should not surprise you to know that the vast majority of cases of the measles have been in unvaccinated and under vaccinated patients, some due to philosophical objections to vaccines and some due to a medical or age related reason for not vaccinating. The vaccine is normally given soon after the first birthday, but if there is planned travel or an epidemic, it can be given at as young an age as 6 months. Unfortunately, 5% of first time vaccine recipients will not develop enough immunity with one dose, and that is why a second measles (MMR) vaccine is recommended, indeed required for full protection.
There have been objections to the vaccine, unfortunately based on incorrect data and assumptions. Look on "the internet" and you will find a myriad of blogs and "informative sites" that warn you of the hazards of the vaccine. Actually, the vaccine is extremely safe and claims of its causing autism have been discredited by responsible scientific studies. What the recent outbreaks show, however, is that we are not keeping our children safe by not vaccinating or even by delaying their vaccines! If you have concerns regarding your child’s vaccine status or level of protection, feel free to call you doctor at Pedimedica to answer your questions and update any vaccines that are needed. We are there for you. Together, we can protect our kids.
Dora Suldan, M.D.