The United States may soon face a major measles outbreak, as a result of gaps in vaccination rates, health experts have revealed.
Approximately 9 million children, the equivalent of 1 in 8 Americans younger than 18, risk contracting the disease because they haven’t been given the vaccine against measles, mumps and rubella (MMR).
The statistics concerning younger kids are even more grim: approximately a quarter of those under the age of 3 are likely to get the virus. 17-year olds on the other hand are more protected against the disease, only 5% not having received immunization.
It’s the first time that an estimation regarding measles susceptibility has been made, and the startling findings have been presented at IDWeeek, an annual meeting for infectious disease professionals, held in San Diego.
Experts from Emory University in Atlanta conducted their research by reviewing data from the National Immunization Survey-Teen, covering the years 2008 to 2013.
They discovered that although about 92-94% of American kids are immune to the virus, there is still a risk for major outbreak, due to “clusters of unvaccinated children”.
Measles had been considered eradicated in the U.S. by 2000, as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) had declared. However, in 2014 a shocking number of 668 infections in 27 states were reported to the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases.
This year, there have been 189 cases, at least 117 of them being related to an outbreak that started at Disneyland.
Measles is a highly contagious disease, which is spread by coughing and sneezing. Its symptoms include: fever, sore throat, skin rash, conjunctivitis, runny nose, dry cough and tiny white spots (Koplik spots) inside the mouth.
The infection can cause complications such as ear infection, bronchitis, pneumonia, encephalitis and even death. Around the world, approximately 400 people die as a result of measles on a daily basis, according to statistics by the World Health Organization.
Although the disease is highly preventable with the MMR vaccine, some children don’t receive immunization, because they are too young or have other medical conditions, or because their parents opt against it.
In addition, other kids are left unprotected due to delays in receiving the vaccine. Such a case was reported on Thursday, when health officials announced that a child in Fairfax County, Virginia, was treated for measles and may have spread the infection to others as well.
The kid had received one dose of the immunization, but failed to get the second dose, which provided full protection. Normally, the MMR requires 2 separate vaccinations, one at 12 to 15 months, and the other at 4 to 6 years old.
While the findings are currently preliminary, since they haven’t yet been published in a peer-reviewed journal, they should still raise concerns among the general public.
Given the risks that kids face as a result of not receiving adequate immunization, experts insist that parents should leave their own doubts behind and provide their offspring with the MMR vaccine immediately.
The shot is extremely safe and effective in combating measles, whose complications can be severe and even deadly.
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