Fifteen years ago, the measles, a highly contagious viral disease, was considered eliminated from the the United States. As of 2014, at least 644 cases appeared in 27 states. Over 120 cases of the disease have appeared in 17 states in 2015 so far. The current outbreak of the measles in California reinforces how important vaccines are for protecting individual health and the health of the entire population.
According to a report published by the California Department of Public Health, the CA outbreak began in December 2014 at the Disneyland amusement park. The source of the outbreak is not yet known.
Air Force Lt. Col. Amy Costello, the Chief of Immunization Healthcare Operations for the Defense Health Agency, explains the importance of the immunization , “the vaccine helped eliminate measles in the United States, and people may forget how dangerous the disease is. Keeping vaccination rates high is the best way to keep the disease from reemerging.”
Costello highlights the importance of developing “herd immunity.” This occurs when the majority of a community is immune to a certain disease. Herd Immunity benefits children who still have not yet received the vaccine and protects those who have low immune systems and other complications.
The MMR vaccine (measles, mumps, and rubella) is administered in two doses beginning at 12 months of age with the final booster shot at age 4.
Measles is spread between people by respiratory droplets that are released into the air due to coughing and sneezing. The infected droplets can remain alive for hours on different objects, surfaces, and the air which makes the measles extremely contagious. Symptoms of the measles includes high fever, cough, runny nose, and a distinct rash 3-5 days after the initial symptoms. The virus can also be spread and transmitted for days before an infected person knows they are actually sick.
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