Posts Tagged ‘effectiveness of measles vaccine’

Why Should Vaccinated Individuals Worry About Measles Outbreaks?

The United States is well on our way to a record year for measles cases.  So far in 2017, we’re on track to see more cases this year than last year.

In the state of Minnesota alone, where a Somali-American community was encouraged to refuse MMR vaccine during visits from Andrew Wakefield and other vaccine critics, a drop in vaccination rates has resulted in a dangerous measles outbreak.  So far, the Minnesota Department of Health has identified 66 total cases spread among four counties, with many cases involving the hospitalization of children.

SOTI-MeaslesCasesIG As the number of measles cases in MN is expected to climb, health departments across the U.S. are beginning to identify other measles cases as well.

For instance, the Maryland Department of Health is investigating a potential outbreak after a patients was admitted to Children’s National Medical Center in the District.  The patient had previously sought medical treatment at Prince George’s Hospital Center in MD, exposing countless people in that area as well.  Meanwhile, a teenaged tourist staying in a NJ hotel contracted measles, and now the New Jersey State Health Department fear other people may have been exposed before the patient was treated at The Valley Hospital in Ridgewood, NJ.

With measles cases emerging across the U.S., and large-scale outbreaks of measles being reported by the World Health Organization in places like Romania and Italy, it’s important to ask if measles outbreaks should be a concern to those who are vaccinated.  

Aren’t vaccinated individuals protected during outbreaks?  And if so, why should we care if others remain unvaccinated?

When it comes to infectious diseases like measles, one person’s decision not to vaccinate can negatively impact the health of others.  There are plenty of unvaccinated individuals who rely on protection from the vaccinated, to include children under one year of age who are too young to be vaccinated for measles, individuals who have medical reasons that restrict them from being vaccinated, or people with compromised immune systems.  These individuals are all at great risk of contracting measles and suffering serious complications and the only protection they have comes from those who are vaccinated.


In fact, in order to keep measles from spreading, about 92-95% of the population needs to be immune to the disease.  Unfortunately, in the case of measles, even small pockets of un-immunized individuals can threaten the herd immunity threshold.  This is exactly why we are seeing an outbreak in Minnesota.

What’s the big deal?  Is measles even that dangerous? Read more…

Measles Anywhere is a Result of Measles Everywhere

April 3, 2017 35 comments

Will we ever stop seeing cases of measles?

Last week, officials confirmed the first case of measles in Michigan this year. That may not sound significant.  It’s only one case in one state, but it’s actually one of 21 cases of measles reported across 7 different states so far this year.

17757243_10210140079997364_6840572758006483074_n-1Last week we also heard the World Health Organization warn of measles outbreaks across Europe.  This image, published in an article from The Sun in the UK, illustrates how widespread the outbreaks have been.  There are currently 14 countries seeing endemic transmission of measles, to include such countries as France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Romania, Switzerland and the Ukraine.  Maybe not the countries you were expecting.  And maybe some countries you plan to visit.

Although measles was declared eliminated in the U.S. in 2000, and even eliminated from all of the Americas in 2016, measles still kills an estimated 115,000 children per year all across the globe – that’s 314 measles related child deaths each day.  Clearly, measles remains a signifiant global health concern.

And it’s not just measles deaths we worry about.  Measles can be a serious illness requiring hospitalization. As many as 1 out of every 20 children with measles gets pneumonia, and about 1 child in every 1,000 who get measles will develop encephalitis – a swelling of the brain that can lead to convulsions, and can leave the child deaf or intellectually disabled.  For every 1,000 children who get measles, one or two will die from it.

When we consider the impact of measles worldwide, we begin to understand why every case is relevant and in someway related, and here’s why:Screen Shot 2017-04-02 at 6.56.10 PM

Measles is a highly contagious airborne disease.  

When one person has measles, 90 percent of the people they come into close contact with will become infected, if they are not already immune. The virus can linger in the air for up to two hours after an infected  person has coughed or sneezed.  If other people breathe the contaminated air or touch the infected surface, then touch their eyes, noses, or mouths, they can become infected.  This means you don’t even have to have contact with the contagious person to become infected. That is why one a case of measles can easily be spread to others.

Disease elimination is not the same as disease eradication. 

Measles elimination is defined as the absence of continuous disease transmission for 12 months or more in a specific geographic area.  Measles is no longer endemic in the United States, but that doesn’t mean we don’t still see measles cases.  The cases we see here begin with transmission elsewhere.  Sometimes cases originate with  U.S. citizens who unknowingly contract measles while traveling abroad and then became sick and spread the virus upon returning home.  Other times, travelers from other countries arrive in the U.S. while contagious.  In both instances, these individuals can spread measles to anyone they come in contact with who isn’t already immune.  In recent years, this has caused several widespread outbreaks of measles in the U.S.

There are still many people in this world who are not vaccinated against measles.

It’s estimated that in 2010 about 85% of the global population has received at least one dose of measles vaccine.  While that may sound good, it’s still not good enough to stop the spread of measles.  Because measles is extremely contagious, the immunity threshold – which is the percentage of individuals who need immunity in order to prevent a disease from spreading – is as high as 95%.  Sadly, as of 2014, only about 63% of countries have an immunization rate that is above 90% and even 90% isn’t good enough.   Read more…

Measles Outbreaks Are Concerning, Even to the Vaccinated

March 11, 2014 168 comments

Last week  New York City health officials announced that there was a measles outbreak in Manhattan and the Bronx. So far they have identified 16 cases of measles, representing the worst outbreak in the state in the past 17 years.

After sharing this news with our Vaccinate Your Baby Facebook followers, we began receiving inquiries about measles and the concern of outbreaks.  Below I’ve addressed some of the more common questions, and hopefully they will help people understand why outbreaks are a concern for everyone, even the vaccinated.

What’s the big deal?  Is measles even that dangerous?

This child with measles displays the characteristic red, blotchy pattern on his face and body during the third day of the rash.    Source: American Academy of Pediatrics, Red Book Online Visual Library

This child with measles displays the characteristic red, blotchy pattern on his face and body during the third day of the rash.
Source: American Academy of Pediatrics, Red Book Online Visual Library

Measles is certainly unpleasant, but it can also be quite dangerous. As many as one in three people with measles develop complications to include pneumonia, miscarriage, brain inflammation, hospitalization and even death.  Infants under one year of age, people who have a weakened immune system and non-immune pregnant women’s are at highest risk of severe illness and  complications.  One out of 1,000 people with measles will develop inflammation of the brain, and about one out of 1,000 will die.

How contagious is measles?

One of the most challenging things about containing the spread of measles is that it is highly contagious.  The virus resides in the mucus of the nose and throat and once an infected person sneezes or coughs, droplets spray into the air and spread the disease to others.  The most amazing part is that the droplets remain active and contagious on infected surfaces for hours.  Therefore, you could be in the same place that an infected person once was, and still get sick even if you never encounter them face to face.

How effective is the measles vaccine?

Fortunately, the measles vaccine (which is part of the MMR vaccine) is highly effective against the virus, especially after the recommended two doses.  About 95 of every 100 children will develop immunity after one shot (typically administered between 12-15 months), and about 99 of 100 children will develop immunity to measles after two shots (with the second shot recommended between 4-6 years). Immunizing that additional 4 percent of children a second time is important when trying to protect against a disease as highly contagious as measles. However, with the challenges we’ve faced in obtaining global vaccine coverage, we see that measles is still quite common worldwide.  There are an estimated 20 million cases each year and 164,000 deaths.  (For more information on measles in the United States and worldwide, visit the Global Elimination page.)

If children are vulnerable until they’re vaccinated, why do we wait until their first birthday to begin measles vaccination?

Read more…