An uptick in measles cases in California and other parts of the country, coupled with resistance to vaccines, has physicians and public health officials concerned that a potentially fatal disease, which was declared eradicated in the United States nearly two decades ago, might create a public health crisis.
As of Wednesday, April 10, 21 measles cases have been reported in California including one in Los Angeles County. On Wednesday, Long Beach health officials announced that a person recently traveled through Long Beach Airport while having measles, putting others at risk of contracting the highly contagious disease.
Measles typically begins with mild to moderate fever accompanied by coughing, a sore throat and red eyes. The fever might climb two to three days later, which is when patients begin to develop the red, blotchy rash, which almost always begins at the top of the head and then marches down the body.
Measles can be contagious even before symptoms start to show.
Potential for lethal complications
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, from Jan. 1 to April 4, 465 individual cases of measles had been confirmed in 19 states. This is the second-highest number of cases reported in the U.S. over the first four months of a year since measles was deemed eradicated in 2000.
Measles is a disease without treatment and there is the potential for serious complications, said Dr. Margaret Khoury, pediatric infectious diseases specialist with Kaiser Permanente Baldwin Park Medical Center.
“If you get sick with measles, you are relying on your own immune system,” she said. “In younger kids or in children whose immune system doesn’t function well, their bodies may not be able to fight it off, and could open the door for other complications.”
Those complications could range from ear infection and pneumonia to sepsis and brain infection that could prove fatal, Khoury said.
“To see children suffer or die from measles is a heartbreaking experience,” she said. “This is not like any other illness. Children really suffer and get sick for several days and often require hospitalization.”
Getting vaccinated is the best and most effective solution to prevent the disease, Khoury said, adding that parents are succumbing to misinformation about vaccines, which is plentiful online.
She criticized the practice of parents hosting “measles parties,” where children are deliberately exposed to the disease with the hope they will build immunity by contracting measles.
“It’s an extremely unsafe approach,” she said. “It’s like driving without seatbelts. It’s unreasonable to approach a potentially life-threatening disease in this manner.”
Khoury said people should get vaccinated before they get ready for summer travel, especially to other countries, such as the Phillipines, that are experiencing measles outbreaks.
Orthodox Jewish community scrutinized
New York City, particularly the Orthodox Jewish enclave in Brooklyn, has been one of the hardest hit by the measles outbreak. The Orthodox community has come under scrutiny and criticism by people who have implied that religious beliefs have prevented a number of its members from getting vaccinated.
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio issued an emergency order covering four Brooklyn ZIP codes including …read more
Source:: Daily times