With the recent measles outbreak in California, many people have questions about the illness and vaccinations.
Experts at Baylor College of Medicine have answers.
Dr. Carol Baker, professor of pediatrics, molecular virology and microbiology at Baylor College of Medicine and executive director of the Center for Vaccine Awareness and Research at Texas Children’s Hospital, explained the basics of measles in the Texas Children’s blog. She writes:
Measles is a severe illness with high fever, eye inflammation so that the room must be dark for comfort, fatigue, cough and whole body rash. It can lead to ear infections, diarrhea and dehydration, croup, pneumonia and seizures in young children. One in every 1,000 children get brain inflammation that can cause brain damage and even death.
In order to be fully protected, you must receive two doses of the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine. Children should receive the first dose of vaccine between 12-15 months of age. The second vaccine should be given between ages four and six.
Adults born before 1957 are presumed to be immune to measles due to childhood exposure, said Dr. Camille Leugers, assistant professor of family and community medicine at Baylor. Most adults born after 1958 have received at least one dose of the vaccine.
“For those adults who do not have their immunization records or who have questions about their immunity to the measles virus, blood tests can help determine if they are immune,” Leugers said. “Adults who have not received one dose of MMR or a blood test documenting immunity, should receive at least one dose of MMR.”
Leugers cautions that not every adult is a candidate for MMR, so consultation with a physician is recommended.
A wake-up call?
Once thought to be eliminated in 2000, measles is back largely due to parents opting out of the MMR vaccination.
Dr. Peter Hotez, founding dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine, noted in a piece for the Houston Chronicle that the outbreak in California should serve as a wake up call to those who hesitate to vaccinate their children. He writes:
There is now a mountain of scientific evidence that vaccines do not cause autism, and an almost equal mountain of evidence for the genetic or epigenetic basis of autism spectrum disorder. I wrote about these ideas last April on Autism Awareness Day, and explained why my adult daughter’s autism spectrum disorder has nothing to do with her childhood vaccinations.
Hotez said an increasing number of parents are choosing not to vaccinate their children in the Lone Star State.
“Considering how non-vaccinators tend to cluster, they make Texas extremely vulnerable to an outbreak,” he said in the Chronicle.