As of July 17, 2019, the California Department of Public Health had reported 60 cases of measles. That’s the most since the outbreak of 2015 when 131 Californians were infected. And throughout the U.S., more than 750 cases have been reported. If you’re concerned about your family’s health and safety, you’re not alone.
Our experienced pediatricians have been calming patients’ fears and helping them understand how to protect their families from measles for years. Now that the problem is closer to home, there has been an uptick in questions about vaccinations. Drs. Smita Tandon and Angeli Suarez are here to answer all your questions and offer all the vaccines necessary to keep you and your family safe from harm.
Almost 20 years ago, the measles disease was virtually nonexistent in the United States, because the majority of residents had been vaccinated. Most physicians agree that if at least 95% of the population receives the vaccination, then measles outbreaks are nearly impossible.
Then, California’s vaccinations dipped below that critical threshold, and there was an outbreak of measles traced back to Disneyland in 2015.
Diseases don’t get much more contagious than measles. Even ebola doesn’t spread as quickly. A person with measles can easily infect 12-15 others, and it doesn’t take long for that to affect an entire community. The measles virus hangs around in the air for up to two hours after the infected person has moved on.
The measles vaccine, like all vaccines, works by taking a dead or weakened version of the virus that causes it and injecting it into your bloodstream so that your body can learn to recognize it and start to build up an immunity to it. That way, if you come into contact with that same virus later, your body knows how to fight it.
In the case of measles, the best way to ensure protection for your family and your community is to achieve a state of herd immunity. The principle is pretty simple: the more people who are vaccinated, the fewer people get the measles, and the fewer chances there are of spreading the disease.
In every population, there are some people who can’t get the vaccination. They may be too old, too young, or too ill. That’s okay, because herd immunity protects them as well. But in order for herd immunity to work, it takes that critical 95% coverage. If your community’s vaccination rate slips below that percentage, you and your family are at risk.
The choice to opt out of vaccinations for personal or religious beliefs was generally accepted, though not medically recommended, in the past. However, after the measles’ resurgence in 2015, California legislators made it illegal to refuse vaccinations for your children unless it is medically necessary.
The measles vaccine is generally administered in a combination with other vaccines. You may have seen it on your child’s medical chart as MMR, which stands for measles, mumps, and rubella. If you see MMRV, the V is for varicella, or chicken pox vaccine. If you and your children receive two doses of the MMR vaccine, you have a 97% chance of avoiding the measles.
Now that you know more about how to protect your children from measles, call us to schedule a vaccination, or make an appointment online.