The People's Perspective on Medicine

Why Are Measles Outbreaks Growing?

The current measles outbreaks can be traced to infections among international travelers. More than 700 cases in the country could re-establish the virus.

The spreading measles epidemic has left more than 700 people sick in the U.S. Young children have been hardest hit in outbreaks across the country, from New York State’s Rockland County to California’s Los Angeles County. Michigan, New Jersey, Georgia and Maryland also have seen large numbers of cases. In fact, this year the US has more cases of measles than it has had in 20 years.

Where in the World Are Measles Outbreaks Occurring?

Cases are being reported elsewhere in the world, especially in Brazil, India, Madagascar, the Philippines, Ukraine and Venezuela. Israel, France, Greece and Georgia have also seen outbreaks. That means international travelers are probably helping to spread the virus around the world. As a result, the CDC is encouraging Americans traveling overseas to bring their vaccinations up to date before they leave.

What Are the Symptoms of Measles?

Measles, also called rubeola, is caused by a virus that is highly contagious. It spreads through droplets from sneezes or coughs. Within ten days to two weeks of exposure, the patient notices a high fever, sore throat, runny nose, red, watery eyes, dry cough, headache and muscle pain. So far, it sounds a lot like the flu or a flu-like illness. However, two to three days later tiny white spots develop on reddened areas of the inner cheek. Doctors call them Koplik spots. In addition, there is the measles rash. It often starts on the chest, back and face, but the red spots frequently spread to other parts of the body.

Measles Complications:

Measles can be a serious infection at any age, but very young children may be especially susceptible to complications. In such youngsters, ear infections associated with measles can lead to permanent hearing impairment. The infection can also cause diarrhea in just under 10 percent of people who catch the virus. Some children (up to 5 percent) with measles come down with pneumonia as a consequence. Even more alarming, one child in 1,000 will develop swelling of the brain in reaction to the infection or the high fever. This can trigger seizures. Worst of all, measles can kill kids. About one or two children in every thousand with the infection die as a result.

What Is the Future of Measles?

In 2000 some public health experts declared the US to be free of measles. Technically, that may still be correct, because the definition refers to measles cases that could not be linked to an infection from outside the country. However, if the current measles outbreaks continue, it is likely that we will be facing more epidemics in the future.

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies. .
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I wonder how many people have died in the USA of measles this year??
And how many died to the measles vaccine?

When I and my children were kids, getting the measles was nothing major. In fact, usually, kids would get them together. It really was not a major problem. The reason us older folks don’t need the vaccine is because we dealt with the minor inconvenience in our childhoods.

Is it possible that the virus is mutating?

Many years ago (before the vaccine) my cousin at age 7 years old contracted the measles. This led her to have complications: encephalitis and severe brain damage. She had been a healthy, vivacious child before she had the measles. I was 6 years old at the time. I myself eventually contracted the measles, German measles, mumps and chicken pox during childhood and recovered completely. All of these diseases should be taken seriously. My cousin died in her early 20s. How different her life would have been if the vaccine had been around at that time.

I think part of the reason measles is “growing” is that doctors have once again become aware of measles symptoms, and can properly diagnose cases. Years ago, back in 1986, my daughter and 5 other kids at her daycare got measles (diagnosed by the daycare personnel). I took my daughter to 2 doctors before I found one who diagnosed probable measles and sent me to the public health center. Blood tests taken before and after her recovery were positive for measles. At that point in time, I believe doctors thought measles vaccine was 100% effective.

Lot’s of scary statistics but the one you don’t have is: what is the long term (40-50) years of measles suppression? We are just now starting to understand the negative effects of antibiotics. Measles has been with humanity a long time. What is the effect of not getting it?

I’ve had measles, chicken pox and mumps. My children had measles too. Like our friends and family, we all recovered and thrived. Why is measles a problem today?

Hmm? 700 cases out of 328,810,844; how does that add up to an “epidemic”?

It is pitiful that parents are not getting their little ones vaccinated. A lot of parents do not trust the vaccines that are given to the children. It was proven that vaccines do not cause Autism. I do remember a couple of years ago, at church, a women sat next to me. We were catching each other up on the kids’ comings and goings. Her son and daughter were teachers. At the beginning of the school year the teachers were meeting with the parents. The teachers had to tell the parents that they must get the kids vaccinated. Had to be explained in the parents language about the danger that it will cause if they don’t. Because, if the child gets sick then it is spread to the whole class, and also the teachers.

I do not know how else to get the message across to the parents. All I can say is this: do parents want their children to get sick with the measles and wind up in the hospital with a very high fever that might damage the child’s brain?

I have read that vitamin A levels are important in fending off complications of measles. Can you please say if this is true?

Question: I cannot find info on measles immunization for SENIORS.
I GREW UP IN post-WW2 europe. Lots of measles, rubella, mumps, polio, chickenpox, diphtheria, thyphoid.
I can’t remember if I had measles. I had some of the above illnesses.
A) Do I need to protect myself?
B) I am a senior with a number of serious chronic conditions and a weak immune system.
C) Is it safe to get measles immunization?

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