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The measles outbreak making its way through the country right now has parents on edge. The virus has spread through at least 26 states including Maryland, is sparking a significant concern in light of the buzz around the anti-vaccine movement.
Health experts report the measles virus in the United States was almost wiped out by 2000 with widespread vaccinations protecting the majority of the population. Trends to not vaccinate, however, are allowing the virus to spike again. In 2017, local and state health departments reported 120 confirmed cases of measles for the whole year. This year, 159 cases of measles have been confirmed from January 1 to February 21 and the number continue to rise.
According to an article published this week by NPR, most states allow parents to opt out of vaccines when sending children to school or daycare for religious and medical reasons. Some states allow personal or philosophical exemptions for vaccines but this may not be the case for long. With the alarming spike in confirmed measles cases this winter alone, eight states are making the move to eliminate personal exemptions for the measles vaccines and some states are looking to remove all exemptions for vaccines. Three states so far in the country (California, Mississippi, and West Virginia) prohibit all vaccine exemptions including religious and medical conflicts.
For the past twenty years, U.S. public health officials and physicians have been pleading with Americans to vaccinate their children, and to disbelieve the “anti-vaccine” movement’s claims that vaccines such as the MMR and MMRV (the vaccine protecting children and adults from measles, mumps, rubella, and pediatric chickenpox) are the cause of autism and other neuro-cognitive disorders.
Aside from families who do not vaccinate based on religious views, many parents are distrusting of vaccines and chose not to vaccinate based on fear of potential long-term health consequences. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends children receive 14 immunizations by the time they turn six, all accompanied with a list of side effects that can be worrying for any parent.
Unfortunately, the majority of the reasons why modern day parents do not vaccinate are based, to date at least, on unsubstantiated beliefs that lack scientifically significant data. The data we do have, clearly demonstrates that vaccines stop the contracture and spread of diseases. However, it is understandable that parents want the best for their children, and no one wants to be “wrong” when it comes to their safety.
But, getting the facts is important. It is also important to realize we are NOT ADVOCATING either side. This article is meant to provide information from which parents should make their own decisions about what is best for their children.
According to an article published by Public Health, here are the most common myths about vaccines that have been called into question by scientific research:
In addition, some people believe that better hygiene could prevent the need for vaccines. Unfortunately, with highly contagious diseases like those that target children, better hygiene has not proven to be effective. Bottom line is, regardless of how vigilant you are about your children’s hygiene, its efficacy for disease prevention is still too depending upon others doing the same thing.
Regardless of whether or not you chose to vaccinate your children, there are some populations of individuals who are at high risk of contracting measles because they can’t receive vaccinations:
Measles is one of the most contagious diseases on record. If one unvaccinated person has the virus, 9 out of 10 people close to that person and are not protected (vaccinated) will get it as well. While most cases of the measles are mostly uncomfortable, serious cases of the measles, especially in unvaccinated children, can lead to horrifying health consequences such as brain damage or even death.
Signs and symptoms to look out for when monitoring your family for measles include:
The measles virus can last for several weeks, with symptoms starting about one to two weeks after exposure. If the virus is not properly recognized and threatened, or someone does not have the immunity to fight the virus easily, the measles virus can also lead to secondary conditions including ear infections, diarrhea, pneumonia, and inflammation of the brain.
Vaccinating yourself and your family members is currently the only way to protect your loved ones from the dangers the measles virus can bring. According to the CDC, you are protected from the measles if you have undergone one of the following scenarios:
If you think you have been exposed to the measles virus, don’t go straight to the emergency room or urgent care. The CDC advises people to call their doctor immediately if you believe you were exposed to determine 1) if you are immune, and 2) if you are not immune, what steps you need to take to reduce your chances of developing the virus.
If you are adamant about not getting vaccinated or unable to receive a vaccination, the CDC advises staying away from any vulnerable locations such as schools, hospitals (unless your doctor recommends medical care), childcare centers, or even certain religious events where large populations could be at risk.
There is no treatment for the measles other than rest, fluids, and over the counter fever and pain medication to ease uncomfortable symptoms. Help protect your children and family by making sure your vaccines are up to date and spreading awareness of the importance of vaccinating to help prevent further spread of this deadly virus.
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