Measles was declared non-existent in the United States in 2000, thanks to mass immunization. However, isolated cases still occur worldwide, with some places experiencing major outbreaks. During these outbreaks, there can be a lot of false information and panic, causing confusion about the disease’s spread and severity. To shed light on this, here is some valuable information to answer your questions.
What is Measles Exactly?
Measles is a highly contagious and potentially fatal disease that mainly affects children. It is recommended that children be vaccinated to protect them from measles. Symptoms typically appear 10 to 14 days after contracting the infection and include a cough, runny nose, bloodshot eyes, and a high fever. After this, a red or red-brown rash will usually appear on the forehead, accompanied by the fever.
The recommended vaccines to prevent measles are the MMR and the MMRV. Children should receive their first dose between 12 to 15 months old, and the second dose at 4 to 6 years old. The CDC states that a single dose of the MMR vaccine is 93% effective, and two doses are 97% effective in preventing measles.
How Does Measles Spread?
Measles spreads through airborne transmission via respiratory droplets from coughing or sneezing. People who are not vaccinated and come into contact with infected individuals or airborne droplets have a high likelihood of contracting the disease.
Where Are Outbreaks More Likely to Happen?
Measles spreads rapidly in communities with low vaccination rates. Factors such as religious beliefs, vaccine hesitancy, and state regulations can contribute to low immunization rates. The World Health Organization (WHO) has identified “vaccine hesitancy” as one of the top ten threats to public health, citing a rise in measles cases worldwide.
In 2019, the United States reported 555 confirmed cases, the highest figure since measles was declared “eradicated.” There has been a global increase in reported cases, with a 300% rise in the first three months of 2019 alone.
What’s a “Measles Party”?
In the midst of a measles outbreak, stories of parents hosting “measles parties” to intentionally infect their children circulated. Health officials strongly discourage this practice, as it can lead to serious consequences. Unlike the past practice of exposing children to chickenpox, modern times require different approaches to healthcare.
Is There a Cure?
There is no specific cure for measles. While vitamin A supplementation is recommended by the CDC and WHO for infected individuals, it is not considered a preventative measure in healthy children from developed countries. Some wrongly believe that adequate vitamin A intake can replace vaccination, but health officials emphasize that this is not the case. Complications of measles can include blindness, brain-swelling, diarrhea, dehydration, and respiratory infections such as pneumonia.
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