Experts say vaccines protecting U.P.

ESCANABA — The outbreak of measles throughout the U.S. shows why it is so important to get children vaccinated, according to local health officials.

“Public Health has been experiencing an increase in calls from residents with questions about measles vaccines and immunity. We do not give a large amount of MMR vaccine monthly. However, in April, we did give more than double our usual amount of doses,” said Immunization/Communicable Disease Coordinator Jennie Miller at the Public Health Delta & Menominee Counties.

To protect yourself and others around you from disease, it is important to get vaccinated according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). A good immunization plan counts on the public to vaccinate when needed.

According to the CDC many diseases are becoming rare thanks to vaccinations. Until a disease is totally eliminated, it is important to continue immunizing. If people stop getting vaccinated all the progress made over the years could be undone and there could be epidemics of diseases that were nearly under control.

A vaccination of the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine, according to the CDC’s recommendation, would stop the transmission of measles. Achieving and sustaining high levels of population immunity through vaccination is essential to preventing outbreaks and maintaining the elimination of measles in the U.S.

“Measles is an acute viral respiratory illness,” said Miller.

Symptoms of measles include a high fever, coughing, a runny nose and red, inflamed eyes. A rash doesn’t present until three to five days after the symptoms start.

“A raised rash starts on the head and face and spreads to the trunk and extremities,” Miller said. “Measles can lead to serious complications, including ear infections, pneumonia and encephalitis.”

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services confirmed 43 measles cases in the state since March 13. In Oakland County there were 40 cases, one in Wayne County, one in Detroit and one international traveler was diagnosed after visiting Washtenaw County while contagious. Ages of infected people range from eight months to 63 years old, with the majority of cases being adults.

From Jan. 1 to May 3, 764 individual cases have been confirmed in 23 states. Sixty cases were added in one week. It is the greatest number of cases reported since 1994. In 2000 measles was declared eliminated.

This year’s outbreak is blamed on travelers who brought measles back from Israel, Ukraine and the Philippines. These countries have large outbreaks occurring at this time.

“Measles cases still occur throughout the world,” Miller said. “Anyone without immunity could be at risk, especially international travelers, healthcare workers, students in post-secondary educational institutions and individuals exposed to measles in an outbreak setting.”

The CDC announces an outbreak of a disease when a sudden increase in occurrences happens over a certain period of time in an area.

“Patients are considered to be contagious from four days before to four days after the rash appears. Measles is one of the most contagious of all infectious diseases,” said Miller. “Up to nine out of ten susceptible persons with close contact to a measles patient will develop measles. The virus is transmitted by direct contact with infectious droplets or … spread when an infected person breathes, coughs or sneeze.”

The measles virus can stay in the air up to two hours after the infected person leaves an area.

Travelers with measles continue to bring the disease into the U.S. Those traveling abroad should verify they are up to date with vaccinations.

Measles can spread quickly when it enters a population that isn’t vaccinated. The majority of people who got measles were unvaccinated.

“Anyone with any questions regarding their immunization status should consult their doctor,” said Miller. “The MMR vaccine is very safe and effective. Two doses of MMR vaccine are about 97 percent effective at preventing measles, and one dose is about 93 percent effective.”

Measles can be very dangerous to young children and babies. One out of four people who are diagnosed with measles will be hospitalized. One out of 1,000 people will have brain swelling that may lead to brain damage. One out of 1,000 will die from getting measles.

“The vaccine protects against three diseases, measles, mumps and rubella,” said Miller. ” The CDC recommends children get two doses of MMR vaccine starting with the first dose at 12 through 15 months of age and the second dose at four through six years of age. People born before 1957 can generally be considered immune,” Miller noted.

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