In 2000, the United States declared measles had been eradicated, primarily due to the development and adoption of the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine. However, with the rise of anti-vaccination beliefs and false claims that there is a link between autism and vaccines, the disease is once again affecting families across the country, and reported cases are the highest they have been in 20 years.
What is Measles?
Measles is a highly contagious infection that causes a body rash, among other complications. In addition to direct contact with the virus, measles can spread through the air. This means you can become infected even if someone doesn’t cough or sneeze directly on you.
Most people who have measles will get better in about two weeks, but in some cases, measles can lead to lung infection and brain swelling. It can also lead to seizures or meningitis in rare cases, and even accounts for 164,000 deaths each year worldwide.
Early symptoms of measles include:
· High fever
· Runny nose
· Sore throat
· Hacking cough
· Swollen lymph nodes
· Red, sore eyes
As these early symptoms begin to disappear, a person infected with measles will develop red spots inside the mouth, followed by a rash that spreads across the whole body.
2014 Measles Outbreak
Since January 1, 2014, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) has reported a record number of measles cases with 585 confirmed infections. Outbreaks have been reported in 20 states, and while Iowa is not currently among the states affected, boarding states of Kansas, Illinois and Minnesota are on the list.
The majority of adults and children who have been infected had not received the MMR vaccine, and many of the cases are associated with unvaccinated Americans traveling abroad and bringing the measles virus back with them. Ohio is among the states that have been hit the hardest after several Amish communities who had not been vaccinated became infected when traveling to the Philippines for mission work.
No Link Between Vaccines and Autism
The recent outbreak of measles is largely due to the belief that vaccines are linked to autism. The findings of a study done in 1998, that claimed the MMR vaccine was linked to autism, were later retracted by the publisher. Since this paper was published, a number of follow-up studies have disproved it’s findings, including a study in 2004 from the Institute of Medicine (IOM). This study reinforced the fact that there is no causal relationship between vaccinations and autism. IOM also released a report in 2011 that found eight common vaccines, including the MMR vaccine, given to children and adults were safe and rarely had serious adverse effects.
Getting Your MMR Vaccine
Because measles can lead to serious health problems, getting your child vaccinated is important for their safety, as well as the safety of those around them. The measles vaccine is part of the MMR vaccine, as wells as the MMRV (measles, mumps, rubella, and varicella [chickenpox]) vaccine. For the best protection, the CDC recommends children receive the MMR or MMRV vaccine twice - once when they are 12-15 months old and again at 4-6 years old.
UnityPoint Clinic pediatricians and family medicine physicians are committed to delivering comprehensive quality care for all of their patients. They focus on providing preventative health care, including routine physicals and vaccine and immunization administration. Use our Find a Doctor Tool to locate a pediatrician or family practitioner in your Iowa community.