A measles outbreak that began in late 2014 in California has since spread to multiple states. Most of those who have gotten sick from this highly infectious disease were not vaccinated against measles.
Experts are calling the current outbreak an important reminder to vaccinate children fully against the disease.
“Vaccines are one of the most important ways parents can protect their children from measles and other diseases,” says Sandra Hassink, MD, FAAP, president of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). “The measles vaccine is safe, necessary and effective.”
The AAP is offering some fast facts about measles and the measles vaccine.
• Measles is a highly contagious respiratory disease that spreads easily through the air or on infected surfaces. It causes rash, high fever, cough, runny nose and red watery eyes. In rare cases it can cause encephalitis that can lead to deafness or mental retardation. Of every 1,000 people who get measles, one or two will die.
• The AAP, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the American Academy of Family Physicians all recommend children receive the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine at age 12-15 months, and again at four to six years old.
• It’s best to protect children with MMR vaccine as soon as they are old enough to receive it. Delaying vaccination leaves children vulnerable to measles for a longer period of time. Vaccinating on time also protects other children in the community, including infants younger than 12 months who cannot be vaccinated and are most susceptible to serious illness, hospitalization and death due to measles.
• Getting the measles vaccine is much safer than getting the measles infection. Like any medicine, the vaccine is capable of causing side effects but usually these are mild, such as pain or swelling at the injection site and a fever that lasts a day or two. The risk of the measles vaccine causing serious harm is extremely small.
• If you are not sure if you or your children have been fully vaccinated against measles, talk with your doctor to see if anyone in your family needs to be vaccinated. There is no risk in receiving the measles vaccine if you have been immunized before. Your pediatrician is your best source of advice on vaccinations.
More information about the measles and the measles vaccine can be found by talking with your pediatrician and by visiting www.healthychildren.org.
When it comes to your children’s health, take control when and where you can. Experts agree that a great place to start is by ensuring your children receive the measles vaccine, as well as the full range of vaccines recommended by your pediatrician.