Understanding the Measles Outbreak: What You Should Know
Once quite common in the United States, measles outbreaks have become rare over the past few decades, thanks to which have nearly eradicated the infectious disease. In recent weeks, however, minor outbreaks have flared up throughout the country, causing some to cast blame on parents who've opted against vaccination for their children.
From January 1 to February 20, over 150 cases have been reported throughout 17 different states, with the majority tied to an outbreak at Disney California Adventure Park in Anaheim, Calif. Some have pointed toward anti-vaccinating movements as a potential cause; however, other factors may also be at play.
What Is Measles?
A highly contagious viral infection, measles causes a full-body rash and a range of other issues that can persist for up to 18 days. Other measles symptoms include sneezing, fever, runny nose, diarrhea, sore eyes, sore throat and a hacking cough. Most people recover fully from the infection; however, in some cases, complications may occur,
Why Are Measles Cases Increasing?
Unfortunately, some parents have grown leery of vaccines, thanks to misinformation related to safety. While countless studies have shown that these life-saving tools are safe, some parents have refused to immunize their children, giving once-rare diseases an opportunity to gain renewed prevalence. According to the CDC, most of the newest measles cases occurred in patients who were not immunized. Interestingly, however, more than half occurred in adults, leading some to question why?
Why Some Adults Are at Risk
One of the first immunizations required to enroll children in U.S. schools, the first measles vaccine didn't offer as much protection as it does today. While modern kids generally receive the MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine at 12 to 15 months and then a second inoculation at 4 to 6 years, older generations only received a single dose, which was just 92 percent effective. For this reason, some may not be protected against measles. For the most part, these people would never know, thanks to herd immunities, which occur when enough people are vaccinated, the disease has difficulty spreading. Unfortunately, since some parents are failing to vaccinate their children, this herd immunity is losing some strength in some areas.
What You Can Do
If you're an adult who can't remember getting vaccinated, you can have your blood tested for antibodies which clearly show whether you're immune to measles. According to the CDC, however, the best way to ensure that you are protected is to roll up your sleeve and get vaccinated again.
If you're an adult who's worried about vaccinating your children, talk to your doctor and get the facts about immunization. While most children usually get better from a measles infection, complications can occur. Likewise, since measles can be especially dangerous for kids with immune deficiencies, it's important for surrounding children to be vaccinated to promote herd immunities that protect those who are at higher risk for complications.