The vast majority of people here in Massachusetts are immune to measles – either because they’ve been vaccinated or because they were exposed to it decades ago.
That said, it’s highly contagious and should be taken very seriously.
With the start of the school year – parents everywhere know how important it is to keep their children up to date on their shots.
Vaccinations are mandatory in public schools, though there are certain exemptions.
“When vaccine rates taper off because people refuse the vaccines then there’s more of the population is susceptible and then measles can circulate and especially with young children they can get a very serious infection,” said Dr. Sarah Haessler, an Infectious Disease Specialist at Baystate Medical center
In the late 90′s, a now debunked study claimed vaccines were linked autism.
Many parents, fearing for the safety of their children – passed on them, believing the diseases that the shots protected against were a better alternative.
“There is zero evidence that the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine is tied to autism at all. In fact the initial data that linked it at all was completely discredited,” said Dr. Haessler.
Part of the current measles concern from the health field is its ability to spread.
The very symptoms it presents – sneezing, runny nose, and coughing – are the very things that make it incredibly contagious.
“It’s an airborne disease so that means when they cough, breath, sneeze, and the virus gets out into the air and circulates around into the air so people passing through that air space can pick up measles unless you have immunity and the only the only defense against measles is to be vaccinated so you develop immunity,” explained Dr. Haessler.
The other reason measles is troublesome – many don’t recall a time before vaccinations.
A time when getting sick, and getting the measles was deadly serious.
“People remember those out breaks and they were terrible. They killed many children and then we had the miraculous advent of vaccinations which essentially dropped those diseases to nearly zero in our population,” said Dr. Haessler.
For children, the CDC recommends they receive their first measles-mumps-rubella or MMR vaccine at 12-15 months.
Adults should have at least one dose of MMR vaccine.
But interestingly, those born in the US before 1957 are considered to be immune to measles from past exposures