With more than 100 reported cases of measles throughout the country in January, Pennsylvania physicians came together Tuesday with a united message – get yourself and especially your children vaccinated.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention says the outbreak has been traced to Disneyland in Anaheim, California, and has spread to 14 states including Pennsylvania, where one case of measles has been reported in Cumberland County.
“Measles is a potentially serious illness, it’s a highly contagious illness,” Rachel Levine, MD, Pennsylvania Physician General, said. “But it can be prevented by receiving the MMR vaccine, which is extremely safe and highly effective.”
The vaccine in one dose is approximately 93 percent effective and two doses are 97 percent effective, according to Levine. She added that the vaccine is also very safe, contrary to a study that linked it with autism, which she said has been proven “fraudulent.”
In light of the reported case, she said the Pennsylvania Health Department hosted vaccination clinics at state health centers in Cumberland County Thursday, Friday and Saturday where they vaccinated more than 300 individuals.
She said there will be another clinic this Thursday at the state health center in neighboring Dauphin County.
Emphasizing the need to get vaccinated, John Goldman, MD, infectious disease specialist and Pennsylvania Medical Society member said this outbreak was “completely preventable.”
He said measles is so contagious it needs about a 95 percent vaccination rate in order to prevent spreading easily. Pennsylvania has an 87 percent vaccination rate among kindergarteners – which is one of the lowest in the country.
“You can literally get measles by walking by a room where someone has had measles,” Goldman said. “And in fact if someone’s in a room, who’s infected with measles… you could get measles from air in that room for roughly three hours after they left – so this is a very contagious virus.”
He said parents who choose not to vaccinate their children are putting their lives, as well as others, at risk.
“There have been deaths from kids who have not been vaccinated, got the measles and then were simply in their doctor’s waiting room and infected kids who were too young to have had the vaccine,” Goldman said.
This is also an issue with Tibisay Villalobos, MD, pediatric infectious disease specialist, who expressed concern – especially with newer physicians.
“Because of the vaccination, because of the success of the measles vaccine, they’ve never seen measles,” Villalobos said. “So it’s hard when you have somebody that may come with measles – a child that is coughing, congested, has fever, red eyes – in the middle of flu season, so that they think of measles (the) first time.”
Villalobos said every doctor or hospital that sees children needs to be aware and create a process of how to approach measles. She said these establishments must decide how to prepare to see someone with a potential case so as to not spread it further.