According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the United States has seen the most cases of measles this year since 1992.
Recent reports indicate the number of cases has surpassed 1,100 and has hospitalized more than 100.
Dr. Frank Esper, of Cleveland Clinic Children’s, said measles is dangerous because of the serious complications that can develop from it, especially for children.
“What happens with the measles, more so than with a lot of these other types of viruses that circulate through the season, is it is more likely to cause pneumonia,” he said. “The virus gets into your lungs and it can cause bad pneumonia, and it can get into your blood, which then goes to the brain and can cause a lot of bad brain swelling. About one to two out of every thousand children will get brain swelling, and about one out of every twenty will get pneumonia.”
Esper said even though "homegrown" cases of measles have been under control for decades, it’s important to remember that measles is still very common in other parts of the world.
And when the disease travels to the U.S., those who are unvaccinated are at risk.
The MMR vaccine, which protects against measles, mumps and rubella is recommended for children beginning at one year of age.
There is also a booster between ages 4-6.
But it’s never too late to get the MMR vaccine if a person did not receive one as a child.
And getting vaccinated not only protects you but those around you, especially the most vulnerable, who may not yet be vaccinated because they are too young or have immunity problems.
“Protecting yourself from measles, prevents you from spreading that measles to everyone else around you,” said Esper. “Even if you’re not worried about getting bad measles, or you think you can take it and it’s just going to be a little bit of a viral illness, there are people around you, who may be at risk of more severe infection, especially small children.”
Esper said some people express concerns about the safety of the vaccine, or worry about their child being irritable after receiving it.
But he said research has shown the MMR vaccine is not only safe, it is very effective.
And while no one likes to see their baby cry after getting a shot, Esper said it’s worth it in the long run for the long-term health of your child.
“We understand you may have a little redness and a little soreness, and even some of these vaccines will cause a little bit of a fever, and that can have implications for families,” he said. “It’s just that the benefits of being vaccinated far outweigh that short-term problem.”
Copyright 2019 by Cleveland Clinic News Service. All rights reserved.