Archive

Posts Tagged ‘measles cases’

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.

soti-herdimmunityfb

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…

History Is Destined To Repeat Itself With More Measles Outbreaks

March 31, 2016 2 comments

What Have We Learned From Last Year’s Measles Outbreak?

8QgmhZV.jpgLast year the United States experienced a large, multi-state measles outbreak that was largely responsible for 189 measles cases that spread across 24 states and the District of Columbia.  It’s believed that the outbreak started from a traveler who contracted measles overseas and then visited the Disneyland amusement park in California while infectious.  Widespread media coverage of the outbreak helped elevate public concerns related to the dangers of measles infection, the consequences of a growing number of school vaccine exemptions and the risks of disease among those who were too young or medically unable to be vaccinated.

At this time last year, it seemed as though we were experiencing a tipping point; a growing number of people were beginning to realize that vaccine refusal had consequences that could threaten our nation’s public health.  The fact that the personal decisions of a select few people was able to threaten herd immunity and the health of many unsuspecting families and communities was worrisome.

It was believed that more parents (including some who had previously refused vaccines) were seeking and accepting vaccination for their children as a direct result of the outbreak.  However, to determine whether clinicians were experiencing any real or lasting changes in vaccine acceptance, Medscape conducted a survey of vaccine providers to find out.

The survey, conducted in July of 2015, included 1577 physicians, nurse practitioners and physician assistants who worked in pediatrics, family medicine and public health.  Responses confirmed that the measles outbreaks induced more acceptance of the measles vaccine and vaccines in general.  The survey also indicated that, for some parents, a greater acceptance of vaccines was directly related to the fear of the disease, the consequence of being denied admission to schools, daycares or camps, and a greater knowledge about vaccines as a result of more reading on the subject.  However, in some cases there was no change.

image3

Results of Medscape Survey Conducted in July, 2015

 

Every Child By Two also experienced a heightened amount of interest in the months during and immediately following the outbreak with a record number of inquiries from parents.  Most were asking for information about the dangers of measles infection and for clarification of the MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine schedule.  There were many parents who were specifically inquiring as to the possiblity of vaccinating their children before the recommended age in order to protect them during the outbreak.  Shot of Prevention blog posts that included content specific to measles infection and MMR vaccination had record numbers of views in the early months of 2015, and personal stories relating to the outbreak, were widely shared on social media.

One story that drew a lot of attention was an open letter by Dr. Tim Jacks, whose two children had to be quarantined after they were both exposed to measles at a Phoenix Children’s Hospital clinic.  His 3-year-old daughter Maggie had a compromised immune system as a result of fighting acute lymphoblastic leukemia (blood cancer), while his 10 month old son Eli had received all his recommended vaccines, but was still too young for his first dose of MMR vaccine.  While neither of his children ended up contracting measles, the frustration he expressed in his letter entitled “To the parent of the unvaccinated child who exposed my family to measles” hit a nerve with a lot of people.

The Focus of Immunization Rates Fades as Cases Dwindle

In reaching out to Dr. Jacks this week, it appears that the attention on vaccinations that was raised during last year’s outbreak appears to have been rather short-lived.  He explained,

“As a pediatrician, I regularly discuss vaccines, exemptions, and last year’s outbreak.  The cold facts and data only reach so many, so my family’s story adds a personal angle to the issue that questioning parents rarely consider.  After the media exposure, many families were aware of our situation.  However today, the measles issue is not on as many people’s minds.  Vaccine exemption is however a hot issue in Arizona.  The Arizona political arena is considering avenues to encourage vaccination and I am hopeful that the coming year will produce progress in that regard.”

Today, a little over a year since the outbreaks began, the good news is that there have only been two reported measles cases so far in 2016.  However, it also appears that history may be destined to repeat itself.

Consider, for example, the reports out just this week about a California charter school student who tested positive for measles after returning home from traveling overseas.  With just 43% of kindergarteners at the Yuba River Charter School being up-to-date on their MMR vaccine, the California Department of Public Health has attempted to prevent a measles outbreak by first closing the school to all students, and then remaining closed to those without a measles vaccine until April 8 as long as no new cases are documented.

Despite overwhelmingly high vaccination rates across the country, with a mere 1.7% national vaccine exemption rate among kindergartener’s for the 2014-2015 school year, and a 90%+ coverage of MMR vaccine among 19-35 month old children, these small pockets of unvaccinated children continue to present a risk of future measles outbreaks. Read more…