When I was in medical school in India there was an outbreak of the bubonic plague in another state. No kidding. The bubonic plague. Didn't we get rid of that a long time ago? That's how I felt when I heard about the recent measles outbreak. Wasn't that eliminated in the U.S. a couple decades ago? Apparently yes it was. But not any more.
So why are we in the middle of an outbreak of measles?Measles is highly contagious. In fact, nine out of 10 people who are susceptible and in close contact with measles will get it if they aren't vaccinated.
- People can transmit the disease before the rash develops and before they know they have it.
- It's transmitted easily by coughing and sneezing.
- People are travelling to places where measles is prevalent and returning to the U.S. with it.
- Groups of people are choosing not to be vaccinated.
There is excellent science to back the safety of vaccinations and nothing to back the claims against them. Measles is part of the Measles, Mumps and Rubella (MMR) vaccine, which also protects you against mumps and rubella. It is 97 percent effective if you've received two doses, and 93 percent effective if you've received one dose.
Some basic questions you may have about the measles vaccine that the CDC has answered:Who should be vaccinated?
- Children should receive two vaccines, the first between six months and 11 months of age and the second between the ages of 4 to 6 years.
- College kids who aren't immune should get two doses separated by at least 28 days.
- Adults who aren't immune should get at least one dose of MMR vaccine.
- Women of childbearing age should check with their doctor about their vaccinations before getting pregnant. It is safe for breastfeeding women to receive the vaccine.
- Adults born before 1957 are considered immune.
- You can have blood drawn to see if you're immune.
- If you have written documentation confirming you've been vaccinated you are considered immune.
- If you have lab confirmation that you've had the measles in the past you are considered immune.
- Babies six months to 11 months of age should receive one dose of MMR.
- Children 12 months of age and older should receive two doses of MMR separated by at least 28 days.
- Adults without evidence of immunity as listed above should receive two doses of MMR separated by at least 28 days.
- Anyone with severe, life-threatening allergies.
- If you're pregnant or think you might be pregnant.
- If you have a weakened immune system from disease or medical treatment.
- If you have a parent, brother or sister with a history of immune system problems.
- If you've had a condition that makes you bruise or bleed easily.
- If you've had a blood or blood product transfusion within last three months.
- If you have Tuberculosis (TB).
- If you've had any other vaccine in the last four weeks.
- If you're not feeling well, moderately or severely ill, check with your doctor.
It's unfortunate to hear of people suffering from a disease that is so readily and easily preventable. There are too many diseases that are not preventable but measles is. So if you haven't been vaccinated, take action and help stop the spread of this disease.