The Louisiana Department of Health is encouraging doctors to look out for possible measles cases.
From January 1 to February 7, the CDC has documented 101 individual cases in ten states: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Illinois, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Texas and Washington.
Dr. Bryan G. Sibley, General Pediatrician at Lafayette General, says measles is the most dangerous and the deadliest of all vaccine preventable diseases.
Dr. Sibley and Dr. Tina Stefanski, Regional Medical Director with the Office of Public Health in Acadiana, both agree the MMR vaccine protects against measles and is very important.
“Measles is very rare throughout the United States, and we’ve had no reported cases in Louisiana,” said Dr. Stefanski. “Over the last several years, we’ve seen outbreaks pop up and in states around the country that we all need to be aware that of course we could be next here in Louisiana.”
Dr. Stefanski says the MMR vaccine can be given to children between 12 and 15 months of age. Then, a booster dose is given at 4 to 6 years of age.
For individuals who get two doses of vaccine, it’s 97% effective at preventing measles.
“We encourage parents to be aware that this is one of the childhood vaccinations that their child should be receiving,” added Dr. Stefanski.
Dr. Sibley said, “Over the last 5 to 10 years, especially over the last several years, because of parents who are refusing to vaccinate their children according to the recommended schedules, we’re seeing a resurgence of measles not only in the United States, but throughout the world.”
According to Dr. Sibley, anyone can get measles, but those most vulnerable are children, especially those under the age of one.
“There are a couple of things about measles that can actually kill children. One is they can develop a pneumonia,” explained Dr. Sibley. “In fact, pneumonia is the most common cause of death among children and people who have measles. The second thing that can happen that’s pretty bad is that children can get an infection in their brain known as encephalitis.”
“(Measles) very typically starts on the face and then spreads to the rest of the body and it’s these red usually fairly flat areas,” added Dr. Stefanski. “That’s the typical rash of measles, but along with that, fever, high fever.”
Dr. Sibley says there is no treatment for measles. The only way to prevent it is to get the MMR vaccine.
He encourages all parents everywhere to vaccinate their children on time according to the recommended schedule from the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Dr. Stefanski says those who may be traveling abroad need to be aware of recommended immunizations.
She says there are measles outbreaks occurring in parts of Europe, Asia, and Africa, and adults born before 1957 are considered immune to the disease and don’t need to be vaccinated.