Measles once was an infection nearly every child experienced. It was so universal that no one gave it much thought. But it carried a terrible risk, that is a complication called SSPE (Subacute Sclerosing PanEncephalitis). SSPE is a rare complication to measles, but devastating as it leaves the brain essentially no longer able to function. Worldwide, measles is actually a dangerous illness as we see about 5% of all childhood death in the world the result of measles.
And so it is with some sadness that we are seeing the re-emergence of measles in our children. A full outbreak has been reported and documented in New York City, and several cases are now appearing to be emerging right here in Northeast Ohio. Two cases in Parma and one in Hudson have presented appearing like measles, actual confirmation is pending.
The good news is that any child in Northeast Ohio has the opportunity to never get sick with measles. All it takes is immunization with the MMR. One MMR gives a person about a 95% chance of being immune to measles. Two MMR's at least one month apart gives a person over 95% chance of being immune to measles. If every person had two MMR's, then measles would not be in our community.
The sadness comes when we think about the child who got measles and suffered a serious complication, knowing that such tragedies are completely preventable, and therefore, unnecessary.
We are all aware that we live in a time in history when the idea of not giving or delaying or spreading out the provision of protection against serious infectious diseases has been very popular, and caught the imagination.
Immunizations have generated a lot of concern and even suspicion.
Witnessing outbreaks of measles in the United States is a sharp reality check that there can be a price paid for popular ideas that have little basis in fact.
There is lots of controversy and question surrounding immunizations these days, but the one fact that keeps coming up is that if a community decides to withhold or delay protection for a particular infection, it will come back and hurt someone.
Of course, we continue to respect the family's right to choose which therapies their child receives and welcome any discussion on the issues surrounding immunization.
We do want to add a note of urgency to all those considering not giving the MMR, measles is in our community now, not immunizing for measles does carry a very real risk. Measles can be a very sad disease.
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