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Measles Causing a Rash of Concern

CDPH gives guidelines
By Scott Warner

There’s something positive about the measles outbreak that began in late December, according to Julie Morita, MD, acting health commissioner, Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH). Dr. Morita is not being flip with her remarks. ”These outbreaks are an incredible reminder of the importance of vaccines for the public, and for physicians as well,” she says.

So far the number of U.S. measles cases this year has risen to more than 150, with most of the new illnesses tied to outbreaks at Disneyland in California and 14 cases reported thus far in Illinois (with 13 of these cases associated with a KinderCare Learning Center in Palatine). While these numbers in themselves don’t seem high, they are a far cry from the year 2000 when measles was declared eliminated in the U.S.

Since then, the annual number of U. S. cases has ranged from a low of 37 in 2004 to a high of 644 in 2014. Nearly all cases are linked to travelers who caught the virus overseas where measles still rages and spread it to this country among pockets of unvaccinated people.

Dr. Morita says that while 90% of two-year- olds in the Chicago area have received two doses of the measles vaccine, 10 % have not.

Children are required to have their vaccinations before they enter kindergarten, but Dr. Morita urges health care providers to advise their patients that children should be vaccinated as soon as possible. (The Centers for Disease Control recommends routine childhood immunization for measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine starting with the first dose at 12 through 15 months of age, and the second dose at four through six years of age or at least 28 days following the first dose.)

What about parents who resist vaccinating their children because they believe the stories of vaccines causing autism? “These claims are not supported by scientific evidence,” Dr. Morita says. “Fortunately, the current outbreak has raised awareness of the evidence that supports the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine.”

She says that most parents try their best to do what’s right for their children; physicians can help by simply saying, “I want you to have your children vaccinated,” and reassuring them about the safety of the vaccine, and warning them of the danger of contracting measles.

Dr. Morita says the success at containing the outbreak will largely depend on health care providers diagnosing measles infections early in the course of the illness and making sure that all eligible unvaccinated people get vaccinated.

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