Measles Outbreaks Highlight the Importance of Vaccines

Measles outbreak

Most parents of school-age kids are way too young to recall how prevalent measles was in its heyday. A very serious, highly contagious respiratory disease that affects the lungs and respiratory tract, measles affected 3 to 4 million people in the United States each year before vaccination began in 1963. Back then, measles — which can be passed on through a cough or sneeze — put 48,000 people in the hospital and killed 500 people annually.

With vaccinations routinely given to children for the past 55 years, it’s easy to assume that measles has been totally wiped out. Unfortunately, as more children in school show up without being vaccinated, measles outbreaks have popped up more frequently. Just this year, more than 100 cases have been confirmed in 21 states — especially in Washington and Oregon – with most cases diagnosed in children who have not had the routine MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine.

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What is going on with all the measles?

Baby chewing on a blogThis next post isn’t necessarily adolescent-specific, however since the Anti-Vaccine movement is in its adolescence, I’m making an exception. Right now, you can’t throw a snowball without running into a story about measles, vaccinations, and Disneyland. If you are on social media at all, you have seen sketches by comedians, interviews of scientists, pleas from parents of infants, opinions from politicians, and warnings from the happiest place on earth.  You have also seen a lot of misinformation. With each report, there are arguments: on one side, there is the medical and science community along with people who vaccinate their kids, on the other side are people who choose not to vaccinate.  These arguments get really heated (seriously, read the comments section on some of these…actually, don’t read them). So, what’s the real deal with measles and the current outbreak?

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A Parent’s Guide to the Measles

Smiling ToddlerWhen I hear 594, I think about…

So far this year, almost 2 people per day in the United States has become infected with measles. Yes, 594 people in the United States from Jan 1 to September 29th have developed measles.

As a pediatric resident, I’ve read a lot about measles but have never diagnosed a child with measles. In fact, many pediatricians who trained in the last 15-20 years are like me. That’s why our newsletters are currently filled with information about how to identify measles, how to prevent the complications, and how to keep our patients healthy.

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