The recent measles outbreak of 14 people in Texas – 10 cases reported in Tarrant County – is a direct result of some not being vaccinated, says Tess Barton, M.D., an infectious disease specialist at Children’s.
The number of cases is dramatically higher than in previous years. Last year, there were no reports of measles in North Texas. In 2011, there were only six.
Vaccinations Urged During Measles Outbreak
The Texas Department of State Health Services issued a measles alert after an adult who traveled to a foreign country in late July and developed measles upon returning to Texas started the spread of the illness. Dr. Barton says that everyone who has not been vaccinated needs to get their Measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine immediately, especially if they have been exposed to someone who has measles.
“A person develops antibodies against measles within a few weeks after the vaccine, but the antibodies can also begin developing within three days,” says Dr. Barton. “For it to be effective after exposure to the disease, a person should get vaccinated within 72 hours of contact.”
People with measles are considered infectious for seven to 18 days, starting four days before they develop a rash.
Measles is the worst of the measles, mumps and rubella diseases,” says Dr. Barton.
“Ten percent of children who contract measles will develop pneumonia, which is the No. 1 reason of death from the disease. There is also a one in 1,000 chance they will develop encephalitis, a serious brain infection. This is a deadly illness.”
The Big Vaccine Controversy
The hot topic of vaccines continues today. Celebrities, the media and anti-vaccine groups perpetuate the argument that vaccines could be the cause of other conditions.
“There has been a concern that the measles vaccine causes irritable bowel disease and autism,” says Dr. Barton. “The Institute of Medicine looked at the majority of studies out there and the link between the measles vaccine and IBD or autism. The conclusion remains that there is no scientific data to support the link.”
The main reason for blaming vaccines for the development of autism is because of the timing of the shots.
“Children receive the vaccine at 12-15 months old, and that happens to be the age when they are rapidly developing communication skills and the signs of autism are more obvious,” says Dr. Barton. “But with all the research, parents can rest assured that the claims about vaccines and autism have been shown to be falsified.”
Vaccine Tips for Parents
1. To start school each year, children need a doctor’s check-up, an updated immunization record and other paperwork. The back-to-school season can also be an ideal time to enforce healthy routines and review safety procedures. Begin by working with your child to make a schedule for bedtime. Plan ahead for each day with healthy snacks and meals and establish a safety plan for after-school.
2. Immunization is one of the best ways to protect your children from many serious diseases. Your doctor will have the current recommended vaccination schedule most appropriate for your child. As a parent, it’s important for you to fully understand the benefits and risks of vaccines and their effect on your child’s health. Talk with your pediatrician if you have questions about your child’s vaccination schedule.
3. Regular immunizations are important to ensure your child is fully protected against vaccine preventable diseases, such as measles, mumps and whooping cough. Be sure your child is fully immunized before he heads back to school. Low-cost immunizations are offered daily to the general public at the Dallas County Health and Human Services building and at many other clinic locations. Call 2-1-1 for information.