Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Measles Cases Reemerging at Home and Abroad

By Jason V. Terk, MD
Keller Pediatrician

We are once again experiencing what is becoming a more frequent reminder that vaccine-preventable diseases are reemerging. Measles cases are appearing in Dallas County and across the state, and the widening epidemic in Europe is playing a part in it. So far in 2013, the United Kingdom has reported 2,523 cases, with France and Italy reporting more than 500 cases each. So, travelers to Europe may get infected by the exquisitely contagious virus and start transmitting it (on the plane, at school, at daycare) before they or their parents even realize that they are sick. Measles vaccination of infants 6 months of age or older is therefore now recommended if they are traveling to Europe. Rates of disease are even worse in other parts of the world like Pakistan, which reported 25,000 cases of measles and 146 pediatric deaths so far this year.

Of course, this is a late result of the decline in vaccination rates that followed the publication of the now-discredited study by Wakefield et al. in the late 1990s. There are many pockets of population with vaccination rates against measles far below what is needed to prevent outbreaks. We need to remain vigilant and respond aggressively to contain cases here so that preventable illness and death can be avoided. Diseases like measles are only a plane ride away, and we must learn from the experiences of our European cousins, or the same misfortune may befall us here.


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