While it may seem like measles has been eliminated because it is less prevalent now than it once was, we should still pay attention to preventing it. Even though Vermont was fortunate to have had only one reported case in 2018, our neighbor state New York is one of two states (Washington being the other), which are “currently experiencing large measles outbreaks” according to a recent advisory from the Vermont Department of Health which “are linked to low measles vaccination rates in children.” The Vermont Department of Health has a comprehensive, easy-to-navigate site at: www.healthvermont.gov/immunizations-infectious-disease/other-reportable-diseases/measles where you can learn more. With 79 cases of measles reported nationally already in 2019, we cannot let down our guard against this illness.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), “In 2000, the United States declared that measles was eliminated from this country. The United States eliminated measles because it has a highly effective measles vaccine, a strong vaccination program that achieves high vaccine coverage in children, and a strong public health system for detecting and responding to measles cases and outbreaks.” However, measles still occurs in the United States, with the CDC explaining, “Every year, unvaccinated travelers (Americans or foreign visitors) get measles while they are in other countries and bring measles into the United States. They can spread measles to other people who are not protected against measles, which sometimes leads to outbreaks. This can occur in communities with unvaccinated people.”
The American Academy of Pediatrics refers to measles as “incredibly contagious,’ but fortunately, the vaccine for measles is very effective. Here in the United States, the first dose of the measles vaccine is typically given between 12 and 18 months of age (but may be given to a child between 6 and 12 months if that child is traveling internationally. A second dose of the vaccine is typically given by age 7, or sometimes at entry to Kindergarten. With the recommended two doses, effectiveness is measured at 97%. As a case in point, the one reported instance of measles in Vermont was found in “a young child who contracted measles while traveling internationally” and who “had only received 1 dose of vaccine prior to travel.”
Even with the decline of measles in the United States, it is still important to be vaccinated and to have your children vaccinated. This is an important step in the prevention of a serious illness. If you have not already, please talk to your Primary Care or Pediatric provider about measles and the measles vaccine. If you need to find a Primary Care or Pediatric provider, please call Erin in NMC’s Community Relations office at 524-1280 and she will help you make that connection. By investing in prevention, you are helping ensure a healthier future for yourself, your loved ones, and our entire community.
— Jill Berry Bowen, RN, Chief Executive Officer