Measles is spread­ing. across the coun­try. Here’s what you should know

South Florida Sun-Sentinel (Sunday) - - Nation & World - By Lena H. Sun

The United States is ex­pe­ri­enc­ing its sec­ond-high­est num­ber of measles cases in nearly two decades. The Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Preven­tion said the di­ag­nosed cases have climbed to 465. At least 19 states have re­ported cases of the highly con­ta­gious virus. The out­breaks are linked to peo­ple who trav­eled from coun­tries such as Is­rael, Ukraine and the Philip­pines, where large measles out­breaks are oc­cur­ring.

The dis­ease is spread­ing in U.S. com­mu­ni­ties that have rel­a­tively high num­bers of peo­ple who have not been vac­ci­nated against measles.

Here are some an­swers to com­monly asked ques­tions about measles, which can cause se­ri­ous com­pli­ca­tions among all age groups, es­pe­cially young chil­dren.

How does measles spread?

Measles is one of the most con­ta­gious dis­eases on Earth. It is a res­pi­ra­tory in­fec­tion caused by a virus. The virus lives in the nose and throat of an in­fected per­son. It can spread by di­rect con­tact with in­fec­tious droplets or through the air when an in­fected per­son breathes, coughs or sneezes. The measles virus can re­main in­fec­tious in the air for up to two hours af­ter an in­fected per­son leaves an area. If other peo­ple breathe the con­tam­i­nated air or touch the in­fected sur­face, then touch their eyes, noses, or mouths, they can be­come in­fected. Measles is so con­ta­gious that if one per­son has it, up to 90 per­cent of the peo­ple close to that per­son or who walk through the same area and are not im­mune also may be­come in­fected.

In­fected peo­ple can spread measles to oth­ers from four days be­fore through four days af­ter the ap­pear­ance of a rash.

That's why many health of­fi­cials in places ex­pe­ri­enc­ing out­breaks, such as New York's Rock­land County and New York City and Wash­ing­ton state, have de­clared public health emer­gen­cies. Rock­land County ex­ec­u­tives tried to ban un­vac­ci­nated mi­nors from public places, in­clud­ing churches, schools and shop­ping cen­ters. New York City just an­nounced manda­tory vac­ci­na­tions in af­fected Zip codes.

Can an­tibi­otics treat measles?

No. An­tibi­otics are used for in­fec­tions caused by bac­te­ria. Measles is caused by a virus. There is no spe­cific treat­ment for measles. Health-care pro­fes­sion­als try to pre­vent the dis­ease by ad­min­is­ter­ing the measles, mumps, rubella (MMR) vac­cine to chil­dren. Non­im­mu­nized peo­ple, in­clud­ing in­fants, may be given the measles vac­ci­na­tion within 72 hours of ex­po­sure to the virus to pro­vide pro­tec­tion against the dis­ease. Preg­nant women, in­fants and peo­ple with weak­ened im­mune sys­tems who are ex­posed to the virus may re­ceive a pro­tein in­jec­tion called im­mune serum glob­u­lin within six days of ex­po­sure to pre­vent measles or re­duce the symp­toms, ac­cord­ing to the Mayo Clinic.

How dan­ger­ous is measles?

Measles can be deadly, es­pe­cially for ba­bies and young chil­dren. Some peo­ple may have se­vere com­pli­ca­tions, such as pneu­mo­nia (in­fec­tion of the lungs) and en­cephali­tis (swelling of the brain), which can lead to hos­pi­tal­iza­tion and death. Measles may cause preg­nant woman to give birth pre­ma­turely or have a low-birth­weight baby. Ac­cord­ing to the CDC:

As many as one out of ev­ery

20 chil­dren with measles gets pneu­mo­nia, the most com­mon cause of death from measles in young chil­dren.

About one child out of ev­ery

1,000 who get measles will de­velop en­cephali­tis, which can lead to con­vul­sions and can leave the child deaf or with in­tel­lec­tual dis­abil­i­ties.

For ev­ery 1,000 chil­dren who get measles, one or two will die from it.

Re­cent find­ings from re­searchers in Cal­i­for­nia in­di­cate that a rare neu­ro­log­i­cal com­pli­ca­tion that kills chil­dren years af­ter they have been in­fected by the measles virus is more com­mon than pre­vi­ously thought. The neu­ro­log­i­cal dis­or­der can lie dor­mant for years and then is 100 per­cent fa­tal. There is no cure. For ba­bies who get measles be­fore be­ing vac­ci­nated, the rate is 1 in 609.

How ef­fec­tive is the measles vac­cine?

The MMR vac­cine is very ef­fec­tive. One dose of the vac­cine is about 93 per­cent ef­fec­tive at pre­vent­ing measles. Two doses are about 97 per­cent ef­fec­tive, ac­cord­ing to the CDC. CDC rec­om­mends that chil­dren get two MMR doses, start­ing with the first dose at 12 through 15 months of age and the sec­ond dose at 4 through 6 years of age.

If you were born af­ter 1957, when vac­ci­na­tion was univer­sal, it's un­likely that you need more MMR shots. If you have no writ­ten doc­u­men­ta­tion any­where that you've had an MMR shot, talk with your doc­tor. In ad­di­tion, if you're preg­nant, clin­i­cians say to wait to get the MMR shot un­til af­ter the baby is born. It is safe for women who are breast-feed­ing to get a measles shot, ac­cord­ing to Wendy Sue Swanson, a Seat­tle pe­di­a­tri­cian.

Why are in­fants at risk of measles?

If a baby's mother has had her MMR shots or had a measles in­fec­tion in her life, she passed an­ti­bod­ies to her baby dur­ing fe­tal de­vel­op­ment and con­tin­ued to pass them pas­sively while breast-feed­ing. Those an­ti­bod­ies pro­vide pro­tec­tion for young in­fants and typ­i­cally are thought to pro­tect in­fants for up to 6 months or more. How­ever, the length of pro­tec­tion is not known. Im­mu­nity wanes for these ba­bies as they age and the mom's an­ti­bod­ies fail to per­sist.

Does the measles vac­cine cause autism?

No, there is no link be­tween autism and the MMR vac­cine. This has been care­fully ex­am­ined by many doc­tors and sci­en­tists from around the world in large and thor­ough stud­ies. Sci­en­tists are study­ing what does make a child more likely to have autism, such as genes or an older fa­ther.

How did the idea that the vac­cine causes autism orig­i­nate?

The de­bunked claim that there is a re­la­tion­ship be­tween vac­cines and autism largely stems from the late 1990s. At the time, autism di­ag­noses had been in­creas­ing, and doc­tors didn't know why. In 1998, British re­searcher An­drew Wake­field pub­lished a fraud­u­lent pa­per, which was sub­se­quently re­tracted, link­ing autism to the MMR vac­cine. Ev­i­dence emerged that Wake­field had been paid by at­tor­neys for par­ents who were su­ing MMR man­u­fac­tur­ers and that Wake­field's data were fraud­u­lent. The Lancet re­tracted his study in Fe­bru­ary 2010. That year, Wake­field was found guilty of pro­fes­sional mis­con­duct by Britain's Gen­eral Med­i­cal Coun­cil and his li­cense was re­voked.

How are vac­cines tested for safety?

Vac­cines are among the most thor­oughly tested med­i­cal prod­ucts avail­able in the United States. Be­fore a vac­cine can be con­sid­ered for ap­proval by the Food and Drug Ad­min­is­tra­tion, the man­u­fac­turer must show it is safe and ef­fec­tive through clin­i­cal tri­als. This sci­en­tific process can take over a decade and cost mil­lions of dol­lars. The FDA then ex­am­ines these stud­ies and de­ter­mines whether a vac­cine is safe, ef­fec­tive and ready to be li­censed for use. The FDA li­censes only those vac­cines that have data show­ing that their ben­e­fits out­weigh the po­ten­tial risks. If there is any ques­tion about the data, or any holes in the data, the FDA will re­quest fur­ther stud­ies be­fore ap­prov­ing the vac­cine.

Are re­li­gions op­posed to vac­cines?

No. Schol­ars be­lieve no ma­jor re­li­gious group ad­vo­cates against vac­ci­na­tions on the ba­sis of of­fi­cial doc­trine, and ex­perts say the ma­jor­ity sup­port vac­ci­na­tions. Large ma­jori­ties of Amer­i­cans from all ma­jor re­li­gious groups say healthy chil­dren should be re­quired to re­ceive vac­ci­na­tions to at­tend school, ac­cord­ing to the Pew Re­search Cen­ter. How­ever, some in­di­vid­u­als from var­i­ous faith tra­di­tions be­lieve vac­ci­nat­ing goes against their re­li­gious be­liefs.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.