Protect your children from the latest measles outbreak

measlesWorried about the measles outbreak that began at Disneyland in California earlier this month and has spread to multiple states? The best defense it to make sure your kids are vaccinated, according to a recent press release from the American Academy of Pediatrics.

From Jan. 1 to Jan. 23, 2015, 68 people from 11 states were reported to have measles, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Most of the cases are part of a large, ongoing outbreak that began at Disneyland in December. The CDC issued a Health Advisory to notify public health departments and healthcare facilities about this multi-state outbreak and to provide guidance for healthcare providers nationwide.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) urges parents, schools and communities to commit to protecting the nation's infants, children, adolescents and adults with the most effective tool there is – vaccination.

Measles is a highly contagious respiratory disease that spreads easily through the air or on infected surfaces. It causes rash, high fever, cough, runny nose and red watery eyes. People who are infected with measles can spread the virus up to four days before they develop symptoms. In rare cases it can cause encephalitis that can lead to deafness or mental retardation. Of every 1,000 people who get measles, one to two will die, according to the AAP.

"A family vacation to an amusement park – or a trip to the grocery store, a football game or school – should not result in children becoming sickened by an almost 100 percent preventable disease," said AAP Executive Director/CEO Dr. Errol R. Alden. "We are fortunate to have an incredibly effective tool that can prevent our children from suffering. That is so rare in medicine." He stressed that the vaccine is safe and effective.

The AAP, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the American Academy of Family Physicians all recommend children receive the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine at age 12-15 months, and again at 4-6 years. High immunization rates in a community will protect those who cannot be vaccinated, including infants under 12 months of age. These infants are at the highest risk of serious illness, hospitalization and death due to measles.
"Measles virus is one of the most contagious viruses in humans," said Dr. Yvonne Maldonado, vice chair of the AAP Committee on Infectious Diseases. "Delaying vaccination leaves children vulnerable to measles when it is most dangerous to their development, and it also affects the entire community. We see measles spreading most rapidly in communities with higher rates of delayed or missed vaccinations. Declining vaccination for your child puts other children at risk, including infants who are too young to be vaccinated, and children who are especially vulnerable due to certain medications they're taking."

The United States experienced a record number of measles cases during 2014, with 644 cases from 27 states reported to CDC's National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases (NCIRD), according to the CDC website. This is the greatest number of cases since measles elimination was documented in the U.S. in 2000.

More information about MMR vaccine is available at the American Adacemy of Pediatrics website.