One of the most talked about topics in healthcare right now is the current measles outbreak. As of April 4, 2019, there have been a confirmed 465 cases in 19 different states. There were 372 cases in all of 2018. As you can see from the statics, the virus is spreading rapidly, and it is important as parents to educate ourselves on what we can do to protect our families from the illness.
Why is it spreading so fast, and how is it transmitted?
This virus is extremely contagious! If you aren’t vaccinated and come into contact with the virus, there is a 90% chance you will get measles. Measles is an airborne virus. You can catch it from a sneeze or cough. The measles virus is extremely resilient and can live outside the body for 2 hours. People with the virus are contagious 4 days before and 4 days after the rash appears.
Why should I worry about measles?
Measles is a nasty virus! It causes extremely high fevers, horrible cough, conjunctivitis, and an awful rash. But more importantly, it has the risk of having serious and sometimes deadly complications such as pneumonia, encephalitis (swelling of the brain), deafness, and even death. Measles is very dangerous in pregnant women, causing stillbirths, pre-mature labor, and low birth weight.
What vaccine protects my child against measles, and when does she receive that vaccine?
The MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella) vaccine is given as a series of two shots. Your child receives the first vaccine at 12-15 months of age. They receive the second vaccine between 4 and 6 years old.
What if my child is under the age of 12 months?
Children under 12 months of age cannot receive the vaccination against measles, mumps, or rubella. Therefore, they have no protection against the current measles outbreak.
My child has only received the first shot. Is she protected?
If your child is at least 12 months old but not yet 4 years old, there’s still good news! If she has received the first shot of the series, your child has 95% protection against measles.
Can I ask my pediatrician to give the second shot of the series to ensure 100% protection against measles?
We normally give the second vaccine at age 4. But if it has been at least 28 days since receiving the first MMR vaccine, your can safely receive the second shot!
How do I ensure my child is protected against measles?
You should highly consider vaccinating your child against measles, if you haven’t done so already. In medicine and as parents, we need to weigh the risks and benefits and come to the best decision for the emotional and physical health of our children. Please educate yourself, not only about the MMR vaccine, but about what it means if your child contracts measles.
My child can’t get the MMR vaccine. What other options do I have?
For starters, avoid areas where there is a current measles outbreak such as NYC. Secondly, restrict travel, and avoid crowded places (Disney World, sporting events, and concerts). Additionally, you should maintain a good line of communication with your child’s daycare or school. And finally, stay informed about any cases of measles in your area.
Final Thoughts on the Current Measles Outbreak
While the statistics can be frightening, using a little common sense about hygiene and public spaces will definitely go a long way! Regardless of your hand washing skills, the MMR vaccine is still your best option for avoiding the current measles outbreak. Protect yourselves and your children to the best of your ability, and stay informed on what’s happening where you live.
For more information on measles, HERE is a great resource!