Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Measles outbreak too close for comfort

The Finney County Health Department confirmed today a 6th case of measles in their county this month. Garden City is a short 4 hour drive away from Wichita.  I'm feeling nervous.  If any of you out there have children age 12 months or older who have not yet received the MMR vaccine, or age 4 years or above who haven't had the 2nd MMR booster shot:  don't delay-- go and get the MMR vaccine for your child today.  

Measles is a scary illness for several reasons: 
1.) It's highly contagious.   It's so contagious that if an unvaccinated person is sitting in the same room with someone who has the measles, they are likely to catch it simply by breathing the same air that was coughed in.  This is why it causes "outbreaks".  Large outbreaks result in epidemics in areas with poor vaccination rates.  
2.) Measles has a high risk of complications including hospitalizations with dehydration, pneumonia, encephalitis, and death. 
3.) Persons who have Measles infection can spread it for days before they themselves even show signs of illness, and continue being able to spread the disease for days after they have recovered. The time period of contagiousness is lengthy-- about 3 weeks. (Think of the implications of the burden to a family from time missed from school and work alone.)

Measles usually starts with a high fever, more than 101 degrees.  This lasts for a few days before the other symptoms start:  cough, sore throat, very runny nose, watery and red eyes, and a rash.  The rash starts at the head and neck, then heads down the body over the next week to eventually include even the hands and feet.  Persons with the measles feel miserable.  

We have been so fortunate to live in a country and at a time when we rarely see death and complications from vaccine preventable diseases, that some of us do not know what are supposed to be afraid of.  Vaccines save lives.  Illnesses like measles cause suffering and death.   That this outbreak of measles in Garden City is happening during the same week that at an anti-vaccine bill is proposed to our Kansas state legislature is beyond irony.  House bill 2094 would allow parents to send their children to public daycares, preschools, and public schools without any vaccinations by simply declaring that it is against their "personal beliefs". 

Parents, please don't fall prey to pseudo-science websites that engender fear about vaccines. For reliable information about vaccines, please refer back to my website.  There is a list of excellent websites to inform and educate about immunizations. Feel good about protecting your dearest little ones from outbreaks like the one happening right now in Garden City.    

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