ST. LOUIS – A health alert tonight from the St. Louis City Health Department about the spread of measles in the U.S heading into the summer travel season.
The highly contagious disease was deemed eliminated in the U.S back in 2000 but it`s now making a dangerous comeback.
“This is a big deal,” said Dr. Ken Haller, a SLUCare pediatrician at Cardinal Glennon Children`s Hospital, about the U.S. measles outbreak.
“People really need to be taking this very seriously,” added Haller about the situation.
The CDC says since the beginning of this year, there have been at least 704 confirmed measles cases in 22 states including Missouri and Illinois.
That`s the most cases in the U.S. since 1994.
Haller says measles can spread very quickly and can be very dangerous…even deadly.
“You get high fevers, you get a really sore throat, you can get problems with the eyes, what`s called conjunctivitis, you know the eyes get red, you can have problems swallowing, sometimes you get so dehydrated that you have to end up in the hospital and get IV fluids,” said Haller.
A St. Louis City Health Department alert is warning people to make sure they are vaccinated if they are planning to travel to areas where measles cases have been reported.
The alert saying the majority of people who get measles are unvaccinated and ‘more measles cases can occur due to an increase in the number of travelers who get measles abroad and return to the U.S. or from communities in the U.S. with pockets of unvaccinated individuals.’
“The thing is that measles is probably among the most contagious viral illnesses that we know,” said Haller.
He added, “So in about one out of a thousand cases of measles someone will die of it and we`re approaching that one thousand mark and I`m afraid that in the next year some kid is going to die of measles.”
Cathryn Moore from Cedar Hill has two children including 3-year-old Neal.
She is committed to her kids getting all of their vaccinations.
“I`m one hundred percent get them. I would rather them be safe than get something that they can`t get rid of,” said Cathryn.
Dr. Haller says children should get two measles vaccinations…one on their first birthday and the second on their fourth birthday.
If you were born before 1957, you are considered immune because measles was so prevalent back then.
If you were born between 1957 and 1968, you likely received the first measles vaccine which Haller says didn`t work very well…so you might want to get two new vaccinations.
For those born between 1968 and 1989 you likely received one vaccination that worked well but a second vaccination would give you even better protection.
And if you were born after 1989 and got two shots, Haller says you should be 99% protected.
“The real science shows us that these vaccines work, that they`re safe, that they`re effective, that they prevent disease,” said Haller.
Cathryn added, “Get the vaccines, keep your kids safe.”
Authorities tell us there has been one measles case in Missouri this year in Jefferson County.
In Illinois, there have been seven…none in the metro east.
Also, if you have a child under a year old who is going to travel internationally, check with your pediatrician about vaccinating against measles.