Though measles was declared eliminated in the United States back in 2000, we're in the midst of the biggest outbreak of the disease in the last 25 years. The disease is highly contagious and spreads very easily.
Despite a highly effective vaccine widely available in the US, there are currently 24 states with 880 new individual cases diagnosed from January to May of this year. If you or you're children happen to encounter someone with measles, or someone was previously exposed, the first thing you'll want to do is talk to your pediatrician.
They'll know how many cases there have been in your area and if there is a reason to worry. Also, inquire about your kids' vaccine status to ensure they've had both of their MMR shots. The vaccine has an incredible success rate.
According to the spokesperson for the American Academy of Pediatrics, Dr. Wendy Sue Swanson, people who receive one dose of the vaccine will be 95% protected. Of those who receive the second dose, 98% will never get it. So if you're vaccinated, you're in pretty good shape.
It's also a good idea to avoid the areas where the outbreaks are happening. A majority of the outbreaks are in the New York City boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens among Orthodox Jewish communities who don't believe in vaccinations.
Don't panic too much. Unless you've been in the areas of outbreaks, encountered someone who has been in those areas or has been around someone who isn't vaccinated, you don't need to overly worry. The odds of you getting measles is very small. Still, don't confuse a small likelihood of getting infected as a way to just brush off the disease.
READ MORE: Everything You Need To Know About Measles
Measles is often confused as an innocent childhood illness but the viral infection is serious and potentially fatal. It begins with a fever and runny nose but then a red, painful rash develops. Some rare side effects can include swelling of the brain, severe diarrhea, pneumonia, and dehydration.
A vaccine was developed in the 1960s and distributed around the country and throughout the world. It significantly cut back on cases of measles worldwide and is estimated to have saved 21 million lives worldwide since its invention.
We reached a point of elimination 19 years ago but a number of factors have contributed to these outbreaks. If you come in contact with measles do your research but the best thing you can do is make sure you're vaccinated. And if you're not, get vaccinated.