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The Measles: The Return of an Ancient Disease



Measles was considered eliminated from the United States in the year 2000. This was due to a very successful vaccine, included in what we know of as the MMR. However, due to the anti-vaccine movement, (a movement based on false claims and junk science), our “herd-immunity” has been decreasing. As it stands, the year 2019 has seen 764 new cases of measles in the US.

So, what exactly does a measles infection look like? When someone first starts to show symptoms of Measles, they will likely have a sore throat, red, watery eyes, sneezing, coughing and fever. 2-3 days after symptoms begin, you may see little white spots (Koplik spots) in your mouth. About 3-5 days after symptoms start, a rash develops which usually starts on the face  and travel downward to your feet. (Palms and Soles are usually spared). The fever tends to spike during the rash and may get as high as 104. About 2 days after the rash starts, people tend to start to feel better. The rash begins to clear after 3-4 days.

If you’re thinking that this doesn’t sound so bad and wondering why everyone is getting so upset these days, there are further things you need to consider. 1) The measles virus can lead to immunosuppression, wiping out what you were previously immune to and leaving you vulnerable to secondary infections. 2) Pneumonia. This tends to be the most common reason for measles-associated death in children. 3) Encephalitis, inflammation of the brain, affects 1 out of 1000 people that contract the virus. 25% of them will be left with intellectual disability or hearing loss. 4) One out of 4 will be sick enough to be hospitalized.

Measles is highly contagious. 90% of people who come in contact with the virus will contract it if unvaccinated. The virus lives in the nose and throat mucous of an infected person. When they cough or sneeze, infected droplets are suspended in the air or land on surfaces where they can be inhaled or transmitted by touch. (Measles can live in the air after someone sneezes for up to 2 hours!)

All of this is preventable. The measles vaccine is a 2 part series, recommended for children aged 12-15 months and repeated at 4-6 years of age. Most people can get the vaccine but there are some circumstances where they cannot (such as severe immunodeficiency or allergic reactions).

Also, so that we are absolutely clear, THE MEASLES VACCINE DOES NOT CAUSE AUTISM. This is a myth that science has debunked over and over. Your child has a greater risk of having severe complications FROM MEASLES than having any complications from the vaccine.

If you are still questioning the safety of the MMR vaccine, please (please, please) make an appointment to sit down and speak with your healthcare provider. There is a lot of misinformation, (dangerous misinformation), out there and we know it can get confusing. Don’t let the discredited opinions of the ill informed lead to the detriment of you or your child’s health.


-Brooke Rieth NP

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