Measles grow­ing prob­lem across U.S.

Texarkana Gazette - - FRONT PAGE - By Ash­ley Gard­ner

Cases of the measles con­tinue to be an on­go­ing prob­lem through­out the coun­try even though there is a vac­cine avail­able to pre­vent the virus.

So far in 2019, the Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Pre­ven­tion is re­port­ing 465 cases of measles in 19 states. It’s the sec­ond-high­est num­ber of cases since the measles were elim­i­nated in 2000 with 2014 ex­pe­ri­enc­ing the high­est num­ber at 667.

Dr. Joe Thomp­son, CEO and pres­i­dent of the Arkansas Cen­ter for Health Im­prove­ment, ex­pects this year to have more cases than 2014.

“We’re less than half­way through the year and we’ve got more than half as many cases as were present in 2014,” he said. “I think the con­cern for health en­ti­ties is that we could lose con­trol. … The CDC cur­rently has seven on­go­ing out­breaks of measles. That’s al­most un­heard of to have that many out­breaks go­ing on at the same time. I don’t want to be an alarmist.

It’s not spread­ing na­tion­wide but you have seven lit­tle for­est fires burn­ing. You don’t want those to come to­gether. … That’s why you see peo­ple tak­ing pretty strong ac­tions.”

Out­breaks are in New York,

Wash­ing­ton, Cal­i­for­nia, New Jer­sey and Michi­gan, a long way from here in miles but a short plane ride away.

In states where out­breaks are present, re­stric­tions have been placed on chil­dren who aren’t im­mu­nized, bar­ring them from pub­lic places in­clud­ing schools.

“In Brook­lyn, the health com­mis­sioner is re­quir­ing every­body to be vac­ci­nated and telling them if they are im­mu­nized they can’t go to pub­lic places like malls or parks,” Thomp­son said.

The ill­ness is con­ta­gious, eas­ily passed from per­son-to-per­son through droplets re­leased when cough­ing or sneez­ing. The virus can live for up to two hours in an airspace where some­one in­fected coughed or sneezed.

“If you’re not im­mu­nized and you’re ex­posed to measles, over 90 per­cent of the time you will come down with the ill­ness,” Thomp­son said.

Symp­toms of the measles in­clude high fever, cough, runny nose and red eyes with a rash of tiny red spots start­ing at the head and spread­ing over the rest of the body.

“The worst out­comes hap­pen when the brain gets in­fected which can cause long-term neu­ro­log­i­cal prob­lems or death,” Thomp­son said.

The MMR vac­cine, he said, is very ef­fec­tive at pre­vent­ing chil­dren from get­ting the measles. It’s rec­om­mended in a two-dose sched­ule, the first to be taken be­tween ages 12 to 15 months and the sec­ond be­tween 4 to 6 years of age.

“If you get those two doses you have a 97 per­cent pro­tec­tion rate if ex­posed,” Thomp­son said.

In Arkansas, ap­prox­i­mately 91 per­cent of the chil­dren en­ter­ing kinder­garten, have all the rec­om­mended vac­cines.

“That means nine out of 10 par­ents are mak­ing a de­ci­sion to safe­guard their chil­dren and to pro­tect other chil­dren,” he said.

Thomp­son said he would like to see the state’s vac­ci­na­tion rate higher.

“If you get up to 95 per­cent you can achieve herd im­mu­nity,” he said. “That’s when so many peo­ple are im­mu­nized it makes it hard for a dis­ease to spread quickly. The prob­lem with 91 per­cent is it’s not evenly spread across the state. There may be a church or school where you’re down to 60 per­cent or 70 per­cent, and that’s where you can get those pock­ets of ill­ness.

“As a pe­di­a­tri­cian this is a con­ver­sa­tion I’ve had mul­ti­ple times. I think what par­ents don’t rec­og­nize is whether it’s po­lio, measles, whoop­ing cough or an­other con­di­tion that four or five decades ago killed chil­dren ev­ery year, be­cause of vac­cines we’ve elim­i­nated th­ese dis­eases so most par­ents don’t have to have that ex­pe­ri­ence. I strongly en­cour­age par­ents get the vac­cines and make sure your kids are pro­tected for life.”

As­so­ci­ated Press

■ Measles, mumps and rubella vac­cines sit in a cooler March 27 at the Rock­land County Health De­part­ment in Pomona, N.Y.

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