"Vaccines are one of the most important ways parents can protect their children from very real diseases that exist in our world," says Errol R. Alden, MD, AAP executive director/CEO. "The measles vaccine is safe and effective." Just two doses of the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine (MMR) are more than 99 percent effective in preventing measles.
Getting the MMR vaccine sooner rather than later -- even if you don't live in California -- is important. "The measles virus is one of the most contagious viruses in humans," says Yvonne Maldonado, MD, vice chair of the AAP Committee on Infectious Diseases. Measles spread rapidly in communities that have not been vaccinated, and those who are infected can also spread the virus up to four days before symptoms appear. Symptoms include rash, high fever, cough, runny nose, and red watery eyes.
Fifteen years ago the United States declared that measles was officially eliminated from the country — meaning that quick detection and response to outbreaks, and an effective vaccination program eradicated the highly contagious disease from our country.
But now there are at least 70 confirmed cases of measles that have affected at least six states, including Utah, Oregon, Washington, and Colorado, according to USA Today. To put that in perspective—California itself typically sees between four and 60 measles cases in an entire year.
So why are all of these people becoming infected with a disease that is no longer native to the US?
Some experts believe one reason is that an increasing number of parents are choosing not to vaccinate their kids because they may still have mistaken fears about childhood vaccines, or they are not afraid of a diseases they have never encountered. Parents are even able to obtain exemption from school immunization requirements based on their personal or religious beliefs. According to the Los Angeles Times "vaccine refusals" have increased from 1.5 percent in 2007 to 3.1 percent in 2013 in California alone.
Because babies cannot receive the MMR vaccine before turning 12 months, they are the most vulnerable and at risk for illness and death. But the more vaccinated a community is, the more it can protect infants as well as those who have not been vaccinated.
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
- All About the MMR Vaccine
- Spot That Rash: What Measles Look Like
- Measles: What to Do if Your Child Is Exposed
- What to Do if You or Your Child Gets the Measles
- How to Protect Babies from Measles
The Vaccine Schedule
Image: Child being vaccinated via Shutterstock