Measles Making a Comeback

Numbers have shown Measles making a comeback in the United States.  Despite, being declared eradicated in 2000 by the CDC.  This can be due to a few primary causes.  First, let's review Measles as a virus and its transmission.  Measles is a highly contagious viral disease spread through infected droplets, coughing, and sneezing.  A person can spread the disease up to four days before having signs or symptoms themselves.  Making it difficult to control.  It has also been reported that approximately 90% of non-immunized people who have close contact with an infected person will contract the virus.  Signs and symptoms of Measles may be fever, cough, watery eyes, and a generalized red rash that often even appears on oral mucosa of the mouth.  Severe complications of the virus can be pneumonia, encephalitis, and death.

Populations most at risk for measles are children under five, adults above twenty, immunocompromised, and the unvaccinated.  As the unvaccinated population in the United States grows it is important to look at why?  Many parents are opting to keep their children unvaccinated against many public health concerns, measles being one of them.  This stems from the flooding of misinformation spread quickly through social media, despite the immense amount of scientific evidence-based data backing up reliability, efficiency, and safety.  This hesitancy to adequately vaccinate poses a huge threat to public health and healthcare systems and endangers at-risk populations.

While there are medical reasons that should withhold some from getting vaccines, that population is relatively small, and further puts importance on those that can vaccinate to do so. To defend themselves and help protect others in the community.   The facts are that 1-3 in every 1,000 children infected with measles will die due to complications (CDC, 2023).  This along with the cost of hospitalization, and stress to public health resources set in place to respond to outbreaks, conduct contact tracing, and provide essential care for those affected.  These are resources that are pulled into action when needed, but often teams are diverted away from other critical public health concerns.

What can be done to mitigate this consequence of distrust and circulating misinformation around the topic of vaccine safety and reliance?  Education.  There are mountains of publications with data supporting the current safety and reliability of vaccines today.  Healthcare systems, pediatricians, primary care practitioners, and planned parenting clinics need to address the question and be available to answer questions with information from reputable sources.  Address common myths and highlight the successes of vaccines throughout time.  Records show that in the United States in 1963, the Measles vaccine was approved.  Also, that year there were 3-4 million cases of Measles infections of those 400-500 died, and another 48,000 were hospitalized.  In 2022 there were 121 cases in the United States.  The current cost of a Measles Mumps Rubella (MMR) vaccine is less than two dollars per vaccine, while the current cost of treatment of the Measles outbreak is closer to 1 million.   This is one health concern that could easily be turned around, with historical data showing it has been effectively managed in the past. 

Stay well, educate, and learn from history.

Malinda Ruelas is a Research Nurse with SPECTRE 






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