According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention the country is being swept into a measles outbreak. As of July, there were 107 individual cases in 21 states and the District of Columbia in 2018. This number is near-surpassing the number of confirmed cases for the entire year of 2017 in just 15 states, but is not near the number from 2014. Throughout the last decade we have periodically seen measles outbreaks of varying severity, but one thing is consistent--the majority of people who contract measles were unvaccinated.
Measles is a highly infectious illness that is caused from the rubeola virus. In developed countries, measles deaths are prevented by vaccinations. Because measles can be difficult to diagnose and treat early, it is easier to prevent infection than treat it. The World Health Organization estimates that measles vaccinations prevented 20.4 million deaths between 2000 and 2016. This is great news for those who are vaccinated, but still leaves nearly 100,000 measles deaths per year. The best way to prevent the spread of illnesses such as measles is to get vaccinated.
Anyone who is unvaccinated is at risk of measles, measles complications, and death. Particularly children and pregnant women who are unvaccinated are at the highest risk, as well as people with suppressed immune systems and autoimmune disorders. Those who travel, especially to developing countries, are also at risk. When conditions are poor following a natural disaster or medical emergency, the spread of measles is more likely because the virus is spread by coughing, sneezing, and close personal contact.
The MMR vaccination incocculates a person against measles, mumps, and rubella viruses. It is often preferred to combine vaccinations so that people only have to go through one round of treatment. All three illnesses can be confused with common cold or flu and difficult to diagnose. When a person isn't vaccinated, they can infect hundreds of people such as in 2015 when an infected person visited an amusement park, infecting individuals from multiple states. In 2014 a large outbreak involving almost 400 unvaccinated adults from Amish communities in Ohio. Usually for these outbreaks to take place, a person travels outside the United States and brings back the virus. Anyone who is unvaccinated will then contract this dangerous and highly contagious illness.
To Vaccinate or Not to Vaccinate?
Every person should be vaccinated for contagious illnesses that put public health at risk. In some cases, a person should not be vaccinated.
- People who are allergic to MMR vaccines and ingredients commonly found in vaccines
- Women who are pregnant or may be pregnant
- People with weakened immune systems due to medical treatment or conditions
- People living with a family member with immune system problems
- People with conditions that cause easy bruising or bleeding
- People who had a blood transfusion or received blood products recently
- Someone with tuberculosis
- Anyone who has taken other vaccinations in the past 4 weeks
- Someone who doesn't feel healthy
As with all other medications and medical products, there is a risk of adverse reactions. Reactions to the MMR vaccine are usually mild and subside on their own. If you experience mild or moderate side effects after getting vaccinated, contact your healthcare professional.