Posted in epidemics, Meales, Vaccines

Measles Watch 2015

Measles Firedog 3A measles outbreak, which reportedly began at Disneyland, in Anaheim, California between December 16 and 20, 2014, has spread to individuals in several other states and Mexico, according to health officials. That’s a pretty hefty price to pay for visiting “the happiest place on earth!” The largest patient-cluster is currently located in California, with 45 confirmed cases, and at least six other infections identified in other parts of the United States and Mexico. Health officials have contacted people who may have come in contact with the virus, asking them to voluntarily stay in quarantine in their respective homes until the threat of potential infection has passed. Staying home if you may have been exposed to the measles makes a lot of sense to me. All of the confirmed cases, to date, were contracted by individuals who were never vaccinated for the virus. Although dogs can’t catch the measles, we can contract a related ailment, known as distemper. So make sure your canines are vaccinated.

Measles Firedog 1People who have the serious yet preventable ailment will experience symptoms including fever, dry cough, runny nose, watery eyes and a pervasive red rash. Spread through the air, usually via coughing, sneezing and/or other close contact, the measles could potentially rise to epidemic proportions because the illness is contagious for up to four days before the rash ever appears. So carriers can spread the virus without even being aware that they are infected. This is significant, as health officials note the outbreaks have begun to affect people beyond the original outbreak area.

CBS News reports, “Health officials report an increase in cases among people who did not visit the parks, indicating that the illness is now spreading to others exposed in their communities.” This is a serious concern, as it implies the illness will be far more difficult to contain than originally thought.

Measles Firedog 2To date, here are confirmed cases, according to the CDC:
• California: 45 confirmed cases
• Mexico: one case
• Utah: two cases
• Washington state: two cases
• Colorado: one case

At least partially to blame for the spread of the virus is the declination in parents agreeing to have their children vaccinated. Kindergarten measles vaccination rates have been falling almost every year since 2002 in California. A Los Angeles Times analysis published last fall reported that the rise in vaccine exemptions among kindergartners because of parents’ personal beliefs was most prominent in wealthy coastal and mountain communities, such as South Orange County and the Santa Monica and Malibu areas. I’ve never understood this phenomenon. My wife and I have JR vaccinated because we figure the benefits outweigh the risks.

Last year, in a report written for the Journal of the American Medical Association-Pediatrics, Dr. Mark Grabowsky, a health official with the United Nations, wrote: “The greatest threat to the U.S. vaccination program may now come from parents’ hesitancy to vaccinate their children. Although this so-called vaccine hesitancy has not become as widespread in the United States as it appears to have become in Europe, it is increasing. Many measles outbreaks can be traced to people refusing to be vaccinated; a recent large measles outbreak was attributable to a church advocating the refusal of measles vaccination.”

Measles Firedog 4While some hesitancy may be understandable, given alarming information available relative to potential, albeit very rare side effects of preserved booster shots, the risks must carefully be weighed against the benefits. Measles can lead to blindness and encephalitis, an infection of the brain. Also called rubeola, measles can be serious and even fatal for small children. While death rates have been falling worldwide as more children receive the measles vaccine, the disease still kills more than 100,000 people a year, most under the age of five. With their parents’ permission, children are typically immunized with a first dose of vaccine at 12 to 16 months and a second at 4- to 6-years-old.

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