A measles outbreak that began at Disneyland in California – and has grown to more than 50 confirmed cases in multiple states – is a stark reminder of our nation’s responsibility to protect our most vulnerable citizens. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and its 62,000 member pediatricians urges parents, schools and communities to commit to protecting our nation’s infants, children, adolescents and adults with the most effective tool we have – vaccination.
Measles is a highly contagious respiratory disease that spreads easily through the air or on infected surfaces. It causes rash, high fever, cough, runny nose and red watery eyes; people who are infected with measles can spread the virus up to four days before they develop symptoms. In rare cases it can cause encephalitis that can lead to deafness or mental retardation. Of every 1,000 people who get measles, 1 to 2 will die.
“A family vacation to an amusement park – or a trip to the grocery store, a football game or school – should not result in children becoming sickened by an almost 100 percent preventable disease,” said AAP Executive Director/CEO Errol R. Alden, MD, FAAP. “We are fortunate to have an incredibly effective tool that can prevent our children from suffering. That is so rare in medicine.
“Vaccines are one of the most important ways parents can protect their children from very real diseases that exist in our world,” Dr. Alden said. “The measles vaccine is safe and effective. The AAP urges parents to have their children immunized against measles, as well as other infectious diseases, and to talk with their child’s pediatrician if they have questions about any of their child’s recommended vaccines.”
The AAP, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the American Academy of Family Physicians all recommend children receive the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine at age 12-15 months, and again at 4-6 years. High immunization rates in a community will protect those who cannot be vaccinated, including infants under 12 months of age. These infants are at the highest risk of serious illness, hospitalization and death due to measles.
“Measles virus is one of the most contagious viruses in humans,” said Yvonne Maldonado, MD, FAAP, vice chair of the AAP Committee on Infectious Diseases. “Delaying vaccination leaves children vulnerable to measles when it is most dangerous to their development, and it also affects the entire community. We see measles spreading most rapidly in communities with higher rates of delayed or missed vaccinations. Declining vaccination for your child puts other children at risk, including infants who are too young to be vaccinated, and children who are especially vulnerable due to certain medications they’re taking.”