How Safe Are Your Kids From The Measles Outbreak?

The biggest news headline from today is, obviously, the U.S. government shutting down.  Because an agreement couldn’t be arrived upon between the Senate and the House, there is a partial government shut down happening for the first time in 17 years.

But I’d like to talk about something else that it happening for the first time in 17 years.  It’s something that doesn’t have quite the same media attention but warrants the attention of every parent out there.  This year is shaping up to have hundreds of cases of measles in the U.S.


Why People Are Scared


How Safe Are Your Kids From The Measles Outbreak? - Myth Busting MommyLet’s talk about what exactly measles is.  It is a virus (so antibiotics don’t work on it) that affects mainly the respiratory system.  It is spread through sneezing, coughing, or other contact with the sick person’s mucus, and is extremely contagious.  In fact, if you come in contact with the virus and don’t have an immunity to it, you have a 90% chance of catching the disease.

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An infected person can transmit the virus four days before the rash and four days after the rash appears.  In comparison, the flu is only contagious for 6 days total and has a much lower percentage of chance of getting sick.

So once someone gets the virus in their system, they will start off with cold like symptoms and will lead to a high fever (around 104 degrees), rash, and not eating.  And as if that’s not bad enough, measles can have serious complications, particularly in children under 5.

Some include pneumonia, encephalitis (brain swelling), layers of the cornea of the eye coming off, and, of course, death.  Around 40% of young children who get measles are hospitalized for it.  And even if they don’t die (only 3 in 1000 do), they can have life-altering effects as a result, such as brain damage, eye scarring and deafness.


A Faulty Vaccine?


So, what gives?  Why are measles making such a comeback after being virtually eradicated from the U.S. for years?

At first, scientists thought that the vaccine was faulty.  So, being the good scientists they are, they ran it though series of tests, did regional and national studies, and searched for the problem with the vaccine.  What they found was that the vaccine actually did its job.  It was determined that of those who received the vaccine, 95% did not get the measles.  And of the 5% who did, their cases were much less severe than those who were not immunized.


The Parental Gamble


So, why the resurgence then?

As unpopular as it is to say, studies have concluded that it’s because more and more parents are choosing to not vaccinate their children.

Of those stricken with measles so far in 2013, 92% are unvaccinated.  The diseases are more concentrated in pockets where people, particularly preschool-aged children, are not vaccinated.  It’s going beyond correlation and sticking firmly in causation.

Families not choosing to vaccinate are gambling with their children’s health, the studies are showing.  But they are not only gambling with their own children, but also with any children too young for the vaccine (you have to be one to get it in most cases), medically-complex children, children who are allergic to vaccines, immunocompromised children, and children whose vaccine hasn’t yet taken effect, if their potentially-infected child comes in contact with them.


Weighing Risks


I’m sure we all know that many parents don’t vaccinate because they fear the vaccination.  Even though the link between vaccines and autism has long been debunked, many are still worried about the effects (besides potentially keeping their child well) of the MMR shot.

So…is the MMR shot really safe?  According to the unbiased studies of it, yes.  It was found that 5% may have mild side effects such as a fever for a few days or a rash.  But the severe reactions that are used as scare tactics against the vaccine, such as brain swelling, happen in less than 0.000001% of cases.

To compare 

Get the vaccine: .000001% chance of ending up very sick from the vaccine and a 5% chance of getting measles if in contact with the virus.

Don’t get vaccine:  0% chance of ending up very sick from the vaccine and 90% chance of getting measles if in contact with the virus.

Some parents are concerned with the ingredients, but none of the “scary” ones are in it.  No mercury, no formaldehyde, no aluminum.


It’s clear that measles are making a comeback and that vaccinating is the best defense.  And the sooner that more children are vaccinated, the sooner we can stop worrying about these diseases.  But, whatever you choose, I just hope we can all make it through this disease-riddled season unscathed.  Let’s let Halloween be the scariest part of our children’s month.

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Photo courtesy of Dave Hagarth on

6 Comments on How Safe Are Your Kids From The Measles Outbreak?

  1. Lorelai @ Life With Lorelai
    October 1, 2013 at 3:14 pm (3 years ago)

    Thanks for this vitally important reminder about just how important it is to vaccinate your children. Being the mother of an immuno-compromised child, I understand the risks from others all too well. Help keep your child safe, and other children too…vaccinate!

    Life With Lorelai
    Lorelai @ Life With Lorelai recently posted…Lorelai’s Pumpkin Carving ContestMy Profile

  2. Rochelle
    October 2, 2013 at 12:19 am (3 years ago)

    Wow, I had no idea about the 90% chance of getting it if exposed. I am behind on my children’s vaccines, and need to catch up. I was very wary of them for quite some time, but have since let go. I still am unsure about the chicken pox one though. Although, I do think one or two of my kids have gotten it.

    I’ll go make an appointment for each of my kids so we’re not behind anymore.
    Rochelle recently posted…Learn ASL in 31 Days :: Day 1My Profile

  3. Madeleine Kolb
    October 11, 2013 at 12:46 pm (3 years ago)

    This is such an important post for all the reasons you indicated. Including a link to an article about the outbreak of pertussis (whooping cough) in California was also informative. Washington State had the same problem last year with children not being vaccinated for pertussis which is often fatal in babies.

    I’ve written about that matter on my blog which focuses on myths of aging. I urged people of all ages to get vaccinated against pertussis so that they don’t get the disease and pass it on to their grandchildren or other children who haven’t been vaccinated.
    Madeleine Kolb recently posted…Glen Campbell’s Goodbye TourMy Profile

    • Amber Schultz
      October 11, 2013 at 4:30 pm (3 years ago)

      That’s a great point that everyone, not just children, should be vaccinated against the diseases that are making a resurgence. Thanks for your comment!

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