If you have been keeping up with the present goings-on in the United States, you likely have come across at least one of the articles about the measles "epidemic." It sounds alarming, but is it truly an "epidemic" we should concern ourselves with?
According to the CDC's website, only 124 people nationwide have reported having the measles. This is more than the last couple of years but close enough to not count as an actual epidemic. Regardless, the number of cases is climbing. The majority of sources blame the number of people getting vaccination exemptions for reasons other than medical necessity, and some of the cases are those who are too young to have received the vaccine.
According to the Mayo Clinic, the biggest risk factors to actually get the disease are being unvaccinated, traveling internationally, and having a deficiency in vitamin A. But unfortunately, those who are most likely to actually die from the measles are babies under the age of two. It is for this reason that the vaccination is important to get unless there is some kind of extenuating circumstance preventing a child from being inoculated. The first dose is typically given between 12 and 15 months and the side effects are mild. It's shown to be safe and reactions are less severe after the second dose between ages 4 and 6. The lifespan of the vaccine seems to be around 20 years after the second dose.
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If you or a loved one are unvaccinated, either for moral or medical reasons and believe you have come in contact with the measles, look for a dry cough, fever, runny nose, sore throat, inflamed eyes, tiny white spots with blue/white centers on a red inflamed area in the mouth or inner cheek and a large flat blotchy skin rash.
One major (but very rare) complication that can occur is "subacute sclerosing panencephalitis". It's a deadly disease that happens sometimes years after getting the Measles. Babies under two who contact the measles tend to be the ones at risk of that disease. Since the vaccine, SSPE tends to be extremely rare in the United States and other heavily vaccinated countries. It's a progressive brain disease that causes fatigue, forgetfulness, irritability, outbursts, lower performance in school, and hallucinations.
About one in 20 children who get measles get pneumonia, one in one thousand get encephalitis, which is swelling in the brain, and 1 to 2 children who get the disease will die.
The best way to protect your child against this almost eradicated disease is to make sure they are up to date on the MMR vaccine. But, without the vaccine, there are steps you can take to protect your little one. Try to limit their exposure to public places while the outbreak is of concern and if you do need to go out in public, have your baby wear a facemask, and keep wipes on hand at all times to disinfect any surfaces. There are legitimate medical reasons to explain why some cannot be vaccinated, but for the rest- it's much safer to get the vaccine.
Of course, speak with your doctor to find the best solutions to protect you and your family.