Return of the measles

Kid getting vaccinated Pic credit: Reuters, Rebecca Naden
                            Kid getting vaccinated Pic credit: Reuters, Rebecca Naden

Measles is a life-threatening contagious viral infection. The symptoms of this airborne disease are high fever, runny nose, cough, appearance of red rashes throughout the body. There is no specific treatment for this measles virus. WHO has been trying to eliminate measles in various parts of the world. Various countries have different time lines set to eradicate measles.

The effective way of preventing this virus from entering the human body is by administration of measles vaccine. In most of the countries, children are immunized against measles at 12 months, generally as part of a three-part MMR vaccine (measles, mumps, and rubella). These vaccines are 97% effective, according to medical professionals.

America had set a goal to eliminate measles by 2000, and successfully achieved regional measles elimination in 2002, but with occasional small outbreaks from imported cases since then. Recently, 121 cases of measles have been reported in USA since January 1st – February 6th, 2015 and is considered part of an outbreak that began in December at Disneyland in southern California. Health care providers and politicians have focused on the country’s growing anti-vaccination movement as the reason behind this relapse of measles cases.

The measles virus is contagious long before symptoms appear, and it is airborne. One infected person with measles can spread it to an average of 18 other people, and it can linger in the air and live on surfaces long enough to spread even after an infected person has left the room. On an average one or two people out of every 1,000 people infected with the measles die of the virus. This number is quite alarming.

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Measles, a disease once almost eradicated by the MMR vaccine, is back in a developed country like the USA. This outbreak has led to nothing short of a public health disgrace and outrage. It’s definitely not “just a routine nuisance childhood virus”. At highest risk are infants and children who lack immunity due to various causes such as prematurity, pre-existing medical immunodeficiency syndromes, chemotherapy for cancer etc. It is potentially life threatening and can cause devastating neurological consequences in survivors. It is still endemic in many parts of the world, and outbreaks will continue to occur unless there is a prompt and appropriate public health response to measles.

Time is now: Get vaccinated for a better life!

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