The Measles Outbreak: 8 Facts You Need to Know

Measles sign

By Wendy Hunter, M.D.

As measles has spread to 14 states (and more than 100 people) already this year—and it’s only February—news reports only tell part of the story about vaccination and risks of exposure. Here’s what concerned parents need to know.

Measles is hard to diagnose early.

Just like a cold, early symptoms are fever, fatigue and loss of appetite; followed by cough and red, watery eyes. Only after about three days does the classic rash appear on the head and progresses down the body.

Measles is highly contagious.

Infectious measles droplets persist up to two hours after the infected person has left an area. And since the contagious period is long—from four days before a rash until four days after—a single infected person can contact hundreds of people.

Measles can cause serious complications.

Measles can lead to pneumonia or ear infections. Most kids recover easily, but in approximately every 1,000 cases, one person will suffer encephalitis (brain inflammation) that causes permanent brain damage; and two to three people will die.

The vaccine is safe.

The latest study, in the February issue of the journal Pediatrics, showed that the vaccine is safe. This goes for both forms of the vaccine available in the U.S.: measles-mumps-rubella, or MMR; and measles-mumps-rubella-varicella (chicken pox), or MMRV. Researchers tracked more than 600,000 1-year-olds over 12 years to confirm the vaccine’s safety.

The vaccine works.

Ninety-five percent of kids will develop immunity when they get their 12-month vaccination. The second dose before kindergarten (age 4-6) gives 99 percent immunity. By contrast, 90 percent of exposed, unvaccinated people will get sick. Immunity can disappear over time and 5 in 100 will lose their immunity by their late teens or adulthood.

The vaccine works even if your child gets it after being exposed to measles.

If your child is exposed and unvaccinated, or hasn’t gotten a booster shot, the vaccine protects when given within 72 hours of exposure.

Very young babies are already protected.

Until 6 months, babies are still protected by the antibodies received in Mom’s womb. But the antibodies will break down, and by 9 months, your baby becomes vulnerable.

Babies should now be vaccinated before international travel.

Because of increased risk, the AAP and CDC now recommends vaccinating 6- to 12-month-olds. However, the regular two-shot series after 12 months is still necessary to ensure long-lasting immunity. And a traveling toddler should get the booster shot early. Learn more about the AAP’s updated vaccine schedule here.

Wendy Hunter, M.D., is a pediatrician in the Emergency Department at Rady Children’s Hospital in San Diego, and the mom of two children. She’s the author of the Baby Science blog, where she explains the reasons behind weird kid behaviors and scary (but normal) baby symptoms.

More About Measles

Vaccines for Babies and Older Kids
Vaccines for Babies and Older Kids
Vaccines for Babies and Older Kids

Image: Measles sign via Shutterstock

Add a Comment

Why Nationwide’s Sad Super Bowl Ad Still Served Its Purpose

SafetyEvery year after the Super Bowl commences, people talk about more than just the debatably unfair ref calls and result of the game. Viewers analyze everything from the outfits worn during the half-time performance to the quality of the year’s outrageously expensive commercials—and this year is no different.

During the NFL championship game yesterday, Nationwide aired a controversial commercial (ICYMI, watch it below) meant to raise awareness about the leading cause of childhood death: preventable injuries. The ad promoted the “Make Safe Happen” campaign with a young boy narrating all the things he wouldn’t do, before finally announcing that the reason…is because he’s dead.

There is no denying that the advertisement is both jaw-dropping and saddening, but many viewers are completely outraged by the decision to air such a serious ad during a major sporting event. In response, Nationwide released this statement shortly after the commercial aired:

Preventable injuries around the home are the leading cause of childhood deaths in America. Most people don’t know that. Nationwide ran an ad during the Super Bowl that started a fierce conversation. The sole purpose of this message was to start a conversation, not sell insurance.

We want to build awareness of an issue that is near and dear to all of us—the safety and well being of our children. We knew the ad would spur a variety of reactions. In fact, thousands of people visited MakeSafeHappen.com, a new website to help educate parents and caregivers with information and resources in an effort to make their homes safer and avoid a potential injury or death. Nationwide has been working with experts for more than 60 years to make homes safer. While some did not care for the ad, we hope it served to begin a dialogue to make safe happen for children everywhere.

While the ad may not be what you expect (or want) to see while devouring hot wings with family and friends, it doesn’t mean Nationwide went too far. Nationwide intended to provoke thoughts and start a conversation, and they succeeded in doing just that.

Caitlin St John is an Editorial Assistant for Parents.com who splits her time between New York City and her hometown on Long Island. She’s a self-proclaimed foodie who loves dancing and anything to do with her baby nephew. Follow her on Twitter: @CAITYstjohn

Image: Safety First written on chalkboard via Shutterstock

Add a Comment

Pesticides Now Linked to ADHD (In Addition to Autism)

Pesticides farmerLittle is known about what causes ADHD, one of the most common childhood disorders, but scientists believe both genetics (though no gene has been found yet) and the environment are factors.

Now a new study from various universities has found evidence for an environmental cause. According to the study, a specific pesticide (called deltamethrin) that’s often used on home lawns, vegetable crops, gardens, and golf courses, may increase the risk of ADHD.

Researchers conducted experiments on mice, exposing them to the pesticide while they were in utero and then through lactation. Results revealed that the mice showed symptoms related to ADHD, including impulsive behavior, hyperactivity, and dysfunctional brain signals. And even when traces of the pesticide could no longer be detected as the mice reached adulthood, the ADHD-like behaviors still existed.

In particular, male mice showed more symptoms of ADHD than female mice, which correlates with studies on humans that boys are (four times) more likely than girls to be diagnosed with the disorder. The researchers also analyzed certain health data (including urine samples) from over 2,000 kids and teens — and discovered that kids were more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD if they had a higher pesticide level in their urine.

Even though the pesticide is usually considered less toxic than others, there is now more concern about exposing any of it to kids and pregnant women — especially because prenatal exposure to pesticides has also been linked to autism.

Sherry Huang is a Features Editor for Parents.com who covers baby-related content. She loves collecting children’s picture books and has an undeniable love for cookies of all kinds. Her spirit animal would be Beyoncé Pad Thai. Follow her on Twitter @sherendipitea

Understanding Treatment Plans for ADHD
Understanding Treatment Plans for ADHD
Understanding Treatment Plans for ADHD

Image: Farmer spraying pesticides via Shutterstock

Add a Comment

Should Schools Ban Unvaccinated Kids?

forbid children signOne family’s story might give you a different and more personal perspective on a continually debated issue: vaccines.

For the past four and a half years, Carl Krawitt and his wife, Jodi, have had to do something that no parent ever wants to do—watch their 6-year-old son, Rhett, battle leukemia. And after finishing numerous rounds of chemotherapy treatment, doctors say Rhett is in remission.

But now another battle has begun— the battle to keep Rhett as healthy as possible, despite being unvaccinated. Rhett cannot be vaccinated until his immune system is strong enough, which could take months. And if Rhett contracts a disease, he is at a higher risk for complications and even death.

While Rhett can rely on the power of herd immunity, it’s not guaranteed when he lives in Marin County, California, which has the highest rate of children in the Bay Area who have been opted out of immunizations. In fact, Rhett’s elementary school has a 7 percent personal belief exemption rate, which is nearly three times more than the statewide average.

In light of the current measles’ outbreak on the west coast, Carl is speaking up for his son — by requesting that his elementary school bans all unvaccinated students, except for those who, like his son, cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons. “It’s very emotional for me,” he told NPR. “If you choose not to immunize your own child and your own child dies because they get measles, OK, that’s your responsibility, that’s your choice. But if your child gets sick and gets my child sick and my child dies, then…your action has harmed my child.”

And Rhett is not alone in having a weakened immune system. According to oncologist Dr. Robert Goldsby, “there are hundreds of other kids in the Bay Area who are going through cancer therapy, and it’s not fair to them.”

However, at this time, Marin County doesn’t have any confirmed or suspected cases of measles, so no immediate action can be made without approval from county health officers. However, “if the outbreak progresses and we start seeing more and more cases, then this is a step we might want to consider,” said Matt Willis, Marin County’s health officer.

We want to hear from you—let us know what you think! Is Carl Krawitt’s request to ban students fair? Or do you think it goes too far?

Caitlin St John is an Editorial Assistant for Parents.com who splits her time between New York City and her hometown on Long Island. She’s a self-proclaimed foodie who loves dancing and anything to do with her baby nephew. Follow her on Twitter: @CAITYstjohn

More About Measles

Vaccines for Babies and Older Kids
Vaccines for Babies and Older Kids
Vaccines for Babies and Older Kids

Image: Forbid children sign via Shutterstock

Add a Comment

The AAP Says Medical Marijuana Is ONLY Okay For…

Medical marijuanaLegalizing marijuana across the U.S. is still an ongoing debate, and the American Academy of Pedatrics continues to oppose using it for medical (and recreational) reasons. However, the AAP is updating their policy and making a new exception: supporting marijuana only for “compassionate use in children with debilitating or life-limiting diseases.”

No official studies have been published before on how marijuana (medical or recreational) affect children, but limited research on adults have shown that prolonged use can have negative affects on: memory, concentration, motor control, coordination, sound judgment, psychological health, and lung health.

But because research into the long-term pros and cons of marijuana use will take time, the AAP now recognizes that children with extreme cases of illness “may benefit from cannabinoids,” or the chemicals in marijuana that can help suppress pain and nausea.

However, “while cannabinoids may have potential as a therapy for a number of medical conditions, dispensing marijuana raises concerns regarding purity, dosing and formulation, all of which are of heightened importance in children,” says William P. Adelman, M.D., an author of the updated policy.

The AAP also included recommendations for protecting kids and teens who live in states that legalized marijuana, such as having federal and state governments focus more on the impact of marijuana on children, stricter rules on limiting marijuana access and marketing, and child-proof packaging.

Sherry Huang is a Features Editor for Parents.com who covers baby-related content. She loves collecting children’s picture books and has an undeniable love for cookies of all kinds. Her spirit animal would be Beyoncé Pad Thai. Follow her on Twitter @sherendipitea

Baby Care Basics: Surprising Reasons to Call the Doctor
Baby Care Basics: Surprising Reasons to Call the Doctor
Baby Care Basics: Surprising Reasons to Call the Doctor

Image: Medical marijuana via Shutterstock

Add a Comment