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2019 Measles Outbreak: What Parents Should Know

Immunizations are a safe and effective way to prevent many diseases. Since vaccines were developed, the number of disease outbreaks in the US has plummeted. Pockets of outbreaks can occur when people who are healthy choose not to vaccinate.

For a small percentage of our population, the MMR (Measles, Mumps, and Rubella) vaccine is not recommended due to life-threatening allergies, a weakened immune system or other conditions. However, for everyone else it is a very safe and effective tool in preventing highly infectious diseases. The current measles outbreak shows how not vaccinating can quickly spiral into a big problem. The sad part is that the people who do not have the choice to receive the vaccine due to health conditions are at risk due to another person’s refusal.

“Measles is highly contagious,” said Dr. Esensoy. “If a child is exposed to someone who has it, they have a 90% chance of also getting the virus if they aren’t vaccinated.”

About the Measles Virus

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, the measles virus typically begins with a hacking cough, runny nose, high fever, and red eyes. Some people have Koplik’s spots, which are small red spots with blue-white centers, inside their mouth. The challenge is that all of this happens before the telltale rash appears on the skin. Measles is a respiratory virus and is spread through droplets that are expelled when someone sneezes or coughs. People with measles are most contagious while they have the fever, runny nose and cough.

About the MMR Vaccine

The MMR vaccine protects both adults and children against the measles, mumps, and rubella. This means that if you and your children have received the vaccine, you are protected. The first dose, which is administered at 12-15 months of age is 93% effective. The second dose of MMR is administered at four to six years of age and increases protection by up to 97%.

Children who haven’t received their second dose of MMR and reside in areas where current outbreaks exist can get their second dose early. However, only if it has been more than 30 days since their first dose. There are currently no reported cases of measles in North Carolina.

Infants who have not received the MMR vaccine yet are at risk for developing measles, especially if they live or visit an area with a current outbreak. The good news is that infants under six months of age have protection against measles if their mother received the MMR vaccine. The antibodies are passed onto the infant during development.

If your child hasn’t had their MMR vaccine and they are due, schedule an appointment to receive the vaccine today. If you have questions or concerns about your child and the current measles outbreak, schedule an appointment with their pediatric provider today. Information on measles outbreak status can be found on the CDC’s website here.

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