Measles is back—in a very big way. The once-eradicated disease, which recently resurfaced in Rockland, Brooklyn and Suffolk counties, is considered a highly contagious infectious disease that is spread by respiratory droplets. If there was ever a time to reinforce good hand washing skills and proper cough and sneeze hygiene, it would clearly be now.
Measles is considered an endemic disease, which means that it has existed within communities continuously. Some people develop natural immunity, but most require a vaccine to prevent the disease and its spread. Most of us were vaccinated as children and received booster vaccines in our teenage years. The vaccine is effective in preventing the disease, which accounts for its eradication by the CDC in 2000. The CDC website states that the eradication of the leading vaccine-preventable disease was “thanks to a highly effective vaccination program in the U.S., as well as better measles control in the Americas region.”
I have been a registered nurse for more than 30 years. I’ve run vaccination programs in the past and offered vaccines to those who lack proper immunity. I’ve seen, firsthand, what happens to children and adults alike who have not been vaccinated properly for easily preventable illnesses. It’s easy to understand that vaccines, like everything else, cost money. There is no price tag that you can put on the health of yourself or your children. That said, there are also programs through the CDC that offer free or low-cost vaccines through participating physicians. It’s called Vaccines for Children, and it’s a viable option for children who might otherwise not be vaccinated because of inability to pay.
I’m going to go out on a limb here and mention something that clearly does not reflect the views of this publication. If you are one of the people who refuses to vaccinate your child, you are not protecting your child from autism or whatever else you may have read on propaganda websites. There is no documented evidence to substantiate this claim. You expose your child to illnesses that are potentially fatal. You are exposing others without immunity to the disease, which means that others can suffer and spread the disease quickly.
On a whim, I asked my physician to add an MMR titer to my labs this year. While I am immune naturally to mumps and have a strong immunity to rubella, I am not immune to measles. Apparently, according to the CDC, those born between the years 1963 and 1967 may have received a killed measles virus vaccine, which was not effective. I recently received a live, attenuated measles vaccine to ensure my immunity against the disease.
According to the CDC website, the symptoms of measles usually appear about a week or two after a person is infected. Symptoms include a high fever, cough, runny nose and conjunctivitis (pink eye). After the symptoms begin, positive measles exposure is confirmed by tiny white spots on the inside of the mouth. A rash appears on the body about three or so days after, beginning as flat red spots that appear on the face, hairline and spread down the body. At this point, a fever can reach upwards of 104 degrees.
It’s important to remember good hand washing techniques and cover your mouth to prevent the spread of illness when you sneeze or cough. Cough into your inner elbow, because if you cough or sneeze into your hands, well, enough said. If you were born after 1957, it might be a good idea to ask your physician for a measles titer in your lab work. If you are not immune to measles, I would strongly suggest you go to your local Minute Clinic (in Syosset), or contact the health department in Westbury. Together, we can help prevent the spread of an illness that never should have gotten this far out of hand to begin with.
Patty Servidio is a columnist, contributing writer and journalist with Anton Media Group. The views expressed by columnists are not necessarily those of the publisher or Anton Media Group.