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A Comeback for Measles?

In 2004, the US was glad to announce that endemic measles was eliminated due to effective vaccination. Historically, before the measles vaccine was introduced in 1963, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported that measles outbreaks lead to approximately 2.6 million deaths each year.

Sadly, there has been a dramatic increase in the cases of measles just within the past two years.  Data from Europe alone has shown an 8-fold increase in the number of people infected with measles; in 2016, the number of documented measles was 5,273 and in 2018 the number jumped to 41,000.  A recent statement from the Pan American Health Organization has also placed Venezuela on the list of countries with endemic measles. Even within the US, there are outbreaks that occur because of unvaccinated communities and travel exposure. In just a 2 month span from Apr-May 2017, there were 65 cases of measles and 8,250 exposures reported in the state of Minnesota.  More locally, there has been a recently confirmed case of measles within the Plano ISD.

Measles is a highly contagious viral illness that may be transmitted in public spaces, even in the absence of person-to-person contact.  Data shows that following exposure to the virus, approximately 90% of individuals will develop measles within 6 to 21 days.

Measles will often present with symptoms of fever, fatigue, cough, runny nose, and conjunctivitis. It will then progress with a rash about 2-4 days after the onset of fever.  Most of the time, the cough will linger for about another 1-2 weeks.

Complications from measles include diarrhea, ear infections, pneumonia, and encephalitis.  Encephalitis occurs in approximately 25% of infected children, with 15% resulting in death. Although rarely diagnosed after the introduction of the vaccine, subacute sclerosing panencephalitis (SSPE) is a progressive and deadly degenerative disease of the nervous system that occurs 7 to 10 years after recovery from natural measles infection.  Of those who were infected with natural measles, children under the age of 2 years were at the highest risk of developing SSPE.

At West Plano Pediatrics, it is our office policy to recommend and require our patients to vaccinate.  Routine vaccination for measles is included in the MMR vaccine given at 12 months of age.  If your infant will travel internationally before 12 months of age, an additional dose of the MMR vaccine is recommended as early as 6 months of age. It is our hope that none of our patients ever have to experience a measles infection or to suffer from its deadly complications.

Article written by Dr. Elizabeth Leon

Dr. Elizabeth Leon established West Plano Pediatrics in 1995. She graduated from the Pritzker School of Medicine at the University of Chicago, and completed her residency at Children’s Medical Center of Dallas. She is board certified in pediatrics and a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Dr. Leon has over 23 years of experience as a pediatrician in the community, and shares her knowledge through her blogs. Her blogs include topics such as financial awareness, memory making ideas, bike safety, and reasons not to start vaping.