ST. LOUIS, MO (KTVI) – Measles was officially eradicated in the U.S. 15 years ago. But it’s reared its head again, after CDC officials believe a foreigner, with measles, visited a California theme park in December.
Since then, more than 100 cases have been diagnosed, many of them directly linked to the amusement park. This measles outbreak has many of us asking the same question: am I at risk?
“You really just have to breathe on another person to transmit measles,” says Dr. Rachel Orscheln, who specializes in infectious diseases at St. Louis Children’s Hospital. She says if you’ve been vaccinated, even if it was decades ago, you should be immune, for life.
Orscheln explains, “Most of the cases reported to the CDC thus far have been in unvaccinated individuals.”
Those include babies under 12 months, and people who can’t be vaccinated because of a medical condition. Others choose not to be vaccinated, due to fears that vaccines and autism are related. But experts say that link doesn’t exist, and refusing vaccines puts Americans at risk.
“The problem that we see is when vaccination rates drop, these infectious diseases that remain in transmission throughout the world, begin to rise in our own country,” says Orscheln.
Measles can cause permanent brain damage, even death. So far, there’s been one case in Illinois, none in Missouri. But St. Louis health officials are prepared to isolate patients showing symptoms, and process samples at virology labs.
St. Louis County Health Department Spokesperson Craig LeFebvre says there have been no measles cases in St. Louis since 1994. He hopes it stays that way, and urges adults and children to make sure they’ve been vaccinated. He states, “Working together, we can move closer to the day when measles is a disease of the past.”
The vaccination schedules for people of all ages can be found at www.cdc.gov/vaccines/schedules/.
For more information about measles, please visit www.cdc.gov/measles/about/faqs.html.
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