The Ugly Facts About Measles

The United States is experiencing a record number of measles cases, with California leading the states inDoctor vaccinating small redhead girl. the number of individuals confirmed to have had the disease. While some community members don’t perceive measles as serious, health care providers and agencies encourage everyone to consider the ugly facts about the disease — and vaccinate.

Measles is Highly Contagious

Measles is a highly contagious virus that lives in the nose and throat mucus of an infected person. It’s easily spread through coughing and sneezing. The virus can live up to two hours on a surface or in an airspace where an infected person coughed or sneezed. In other words, even after an infected person leaves a room, an unvaccinated individual could get measles as a result of breathing the contaminated air or touching the infected surface.   In fact, 90 percent of unvaccinated individuals in close proximity to a person with measles will become infected.

Measles is Not Simply a Rash

Measles do carry complications, from mild to severe. The most common complications are diarrhea and ear infections, which can result in permanent hearing loss. Severe complications include pneumonia, the most common cause of death from measles in young children, and encephalitis (swelling of the brain) that can lead to convulsions and leave a child with hearing loss and cognitive delays.

There is no treatment for measles. Vaccination is the best protection against the disease. Please talk to your health care provider about the importance of vaccinations for you, your child, and your community.

 

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Protect Your Family From Measles

Measles has now been confirmed in ten Orange County residents, in conjunction with the recent outbreak affecting California and more than 20 other states. The Orange County Health Care Agency reminds the public that the best way to prevent measles is by getting vaccinated.

Measles is an acute infection caused by the measles (rubeola) virus. The disease spreads very easily by air and by direct contact with an infected person. The illness usually begins about 8 to 12 days (but up to 21 days) after exposure with fever, cough, runny nose and red eyes. Complications of measles include pneumonia and, less commonly, encephalitis (inflammation of the brain).

Anyone suspecting they have measles should call their health care provider immediately, and before going to the medical office to avoid exposing others to the virus. The Orange County Health Care Agency recommends the following guidelines to help protect you and your family from measles:

• Children should receive their first MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella) vaccine at 12-15 months of age. The second dose of MMR is given at 4 to 6 years of age before going to school.
• Vaccinating children, adolescents and adults is the best way to protect infants who are too young to receive the MMR vaccine.
• Vaccinations are very safe. The benefits far outweigh any risks. Side effects are usually mild, such as soreness where the shot was given.
• Measles is found in many parts of the world, including Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Middle East. Vaccination before traveling is recommended.

Most people in the U.S. are considered immune to measles from previous measles infection or vaccination. Please contact your health care provider to review your measles vaccination history.

Read this related CHOC article to learn more.

Or, visit the Orange County Health Care Agency or Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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Protect Your Child From Pneumonia

Pneumonia, an inflammation or infection of the lungs, is a serious condition that can be prevented, a CHOC Children’s infectious disease specialist says.

“Pneumonia is a serious condition and can often be prevented by getting vaccinated for illnesses that can lead to pneumonia,” says Dr. Antonio Arrieta, CHOC’s director of infectious disease and director of infectious disease research.

Several vaccines recommended for infants and young children can help prevent bacterial or viral infections that can lead to pneumonia, says Dr. Arrieta, who encourages parents to seek these vaccines for their children as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and many other medical associations.

Vaccines for the following illnesses can help prevent people from getting pneumonia:

  • Influenza (flu): The flu vaccine is given annually at the beginning of flu season.
  • Measles: The MMR vaccine protects against measles, as well as mumps and rubella.
  • Pertussis: A vaccine called DTaP protects against whooping cough, a contagious infection that prompts a violent cough.
  • Pneumococcal: A vaccine for this condition is recommended for children younger than 5, and decreases the risk of acquiring bacterial pneumonia by about 70 percent, Dr. Arrieta says.
  • Chickenpox: The CDC recommends two doses of the vaccine against this condition for children, adolescents and adults.

The streptococcus pneumonia is the most common bacterium to cause bacterial pneumonia, Dr. Arrieta says.

Other bacteria that may lead to bacterial pneumonia include Group B streptococcus, which is most common in newborns; Staphylococcus aureus; and Group A streptococcus, which is most common in children older than 5, Dr. Arrieta says.

Unlike bacterial pneumonia, viral pneumonia is caused by viruses such as the respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), which is most common in babies and children younger than 2, and the influenza virus, or the flu, says Dr. Arrieta.

Though the flu typically lasts for no more than five days, pneumonia can linger for longer. Thus, prevention is key, Dr. Arrieta says.

Talk to your pediatrician for information about vaccines and the recommended vaccination schedule, as well as other ways to prevent your child from getting pneumonia.

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Hand Sanitizers: Fact or Fiction?

Hand sanitizer gels are ubiquitous these days – and so are the myths surrounding these products.

Today, a CHOC Children’s infectious disease specialist comes clean on what’s fact and what’s fiction when it comes to hand sanitizing gels.Hand Sanitizer Tips

Fact: Hand sanitizers are a good option for removing some germs from hands.

“Washing your hands with soap and water is an effective way to keep clean, but hand sanitizers are useful when you are not near a sink and you can’t wash your hands,” Dr. Felice Adler says. “Sanitizers are also easy to take with you and pack on a trip. Sometimes you just don’t have a sink handy.”

Fiction: All hand sanitizers are created equal.

“It’s recommended that you look for an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol,” Dr. Adler says. “Studies have shown that hand sanitizers with alcohol content between 60-95 percent are more effective at killing germs than those with lower alcohol content and non-alcohol based hand sanitizers.”

hand hygiene tips Fiction: Hand sanitizers remove dirt or grease better than soap and water.

While hand sanitizers will help to kill many (but not all) bacteria and viruses, they will not remove stubborn dirt or clean really filthy hands, Dr. Adler says. Hand washing with soap and water is preferred before preparing or eating food, after using the toilet, after handling animals or their food or waste, and when hands are visibly dirty.

The bottom line:

When it comes to keeping hands germ-free, there’s nothing like a good, old-fashioned vigorous hand washing with soap and water. However, a squirt of an alcohol-based hand sanitizer can be a good alternative.

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“Herd Immunity” Protects Everyone Against Disease

Under what is called “herd immunity,” when most people in a community are vaccinated against a disease, the virus lacks a host and will eventually go away because there are so few susceptible people left to infect, a CHOC Children’s infectious disease specialist says.

An instance when herd immunity broke down and a disease spread rapidly and broadly was in 2010, when a statewide whooping cough epidemic killed 10 infants and sickened 9,120 people in California. Earlier this year, the California Department of Public Health declared another statewide whopping cough epidemic.

“With the last epidemic, it was shown that there were higher rates of disease in geographic pockets where there were lower rates of vaccination,” says Dr. Jasjit Singh, associate director of pediatric infectious diseases and medical director of infection prevention and epidemiology at CHOC.

The herd immunity principle is especially important for protecting people who cannot be vaccinated, including children who are too young to be vaccinated and people with immune system problems. Of the 10 infants who died in the 2010 whooping cough outbreak, nine were too young to be vaccinated.

Unless society eliminates a disease, it’s important to keep immunizing people. If the protection given by a vaccination is removed, more and more people will become infected and spread diseases to others. In time, diseases that today are almost unknown and rare in the United States, such as polio, could return.

And though vaccinations benefit everyone, they do not offer a full guarantee that a vaccinated person won’t get a disease if exposed to an infected person, Dr. Singh says.

“Even those who have been vaccinated are at increased risk from those not vaccinated,” she says. “That’s been shown clearly with measles and whooping cough. By being in proximity or near an individual who has not been vaccinated, you are at a higher risk.”

Click here to learn more about infectious disease programs and services at CHOC Children’s.

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