Measles is a disease that shouldn’t exist in modern societies, yet it is making a comeback due to low vaccination rates.
What is measles?
Measles is a highly contagious virus that in 2000 was declared eradicated in the United States, meaning it had stopped circulating continuously. Unfortunately, anti-vaccination movements reversed this trend, and the virus is now circulating once again, taking the lives of children.
How contagious is measles?
The measles virus is highly contagious, infecting up to 90% of unvaccinated persons who come into contact with it. A person is contagious and can spread the virus for 14 days before the tell-tale rash shows up. In an unimmunized population, measles has a reproduction number of 12 to 18, meaning that each person who has it will infect an average of 12 to 18 people, compared to around l.) forthe tlu. liVlcGinty, 1-5-2019) Measles is so contagious lhat t:vt:1l a sillall uip bdow 95% ill tilt: 11t:IU immunity rate is enough to allow it a foothold in a community.
How is measles spread?
Measles is primarily an airborne virus, spread through coughing and sneezing. In its advanced stages, the virus hijacks lung cells and uses them to reproduce itself. When a person exhales or coughs, the virus lingers in the air, where it is then inhaled by others. The virus can stay airborne for up to 2 hours after a person has coughed, sneezed or breathed, making it highly contagious.
How dangerous is measles?
Measles is a lot like chicken pox: Although most children who get it will recover after a week or two of illness, it can cause dangerous and crippling health problems in others. Measles can lead to deafness, and roughly I in 20 children who get it develop pneumonia, which is the leading cause of death in young children. It is fatal in around 1 in 1,000 cases. About I in every 1,000 children develop encephalitis, a dangerous brain inflammation that can leave them brain damaged. And a great deal of the people who get It end up hospItalized before recovering. In a recent outbreak in the U.K., for example, 10% of children who contraclted il were admitted to the hospital with severe complications such as dehydration or pneumonia. (Whalen & McKay, 2013)
“We can’t tell you if your individual child is going to do well or not well with measles,” says Thomas Clark, deputy director of the CDC’s division of viral diseases. “That’s why we vaccinate every child.” (Evans & McKay, 2019)
The measles vaccine
The measles vaccine was first licensed in 1963, and an improved version was introduced in 1968. Vaccination against measles is given through the combined measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine. The CDC recommends children get their first dose by age I and then receive a second dose between the ages of 4 and 6, though it also recommends babies be vaccinated as early as 6 months if they will be traveling abroad to areas where vaccination rates aren’t as high, and that children I and older have both doses if they’ll be traveling abroad. The vaccine is 97% effective when a person has received the required 2 doses, according to the CDC, whereas a single dose only provides 90% protection, which isn’t enough to maintain herd immunity.
Is the measles vaccine safe?
Yes. The idea that the MMR vaccine leads to autism has been repeatedly debunked in study after study. This claim was originally made by a physician, Dr. Andrew Wakefield, who had been paid close to a million dollars by lawyers who wanted to sue vaccine companies. The paper included only a small sampling of self-selected children. Dr. Wakefield has since been stripped of his medical license for fraud related to the study, and the original study has been retracted from the journal that published it. Dozens of larger, more rigorous and scientific studies since’that time have failed to turn up an autism link, including a Danish study published March 5, 2019, that followed more than 600,000 children born between 1999 and 2010 from the age of one until August 2013.
Signs & symptoms of measles
Measles symptoms usually show up anywhere from 7 to 14 days after a person has been infected. The initial symptoms typically involve a high fever, runny nose, cough, and conjunctivitis. Two or three days later, tiny white spots usually appear inside a person’s mouth, known as Koplick spots. ThIS is tollowed by a rash of t1at, red spots on the skin that people typically think of when they think of measles.