The measles epidemic in Ohio continues to grow. Here’s what to know about the measles vaccine and more

The measles epidemic in Ohio continues to grow. Here’s what to know about the measles vaccine and more

The measles epidemic in Ohio continues to grow. Here's what to know about the measles vaccine and more

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A measles outbreak in central Ohio has topped 80 cases, concentrated in unvaccinated children. According to data available Tuesday from the city of Columbus, 74 of the cases were in unvaccinated children, four were in partially vaccinated children who had not yet received their second dose, and another four were in children whose vaccination status was unknown.

Twenty-three of the cases were in children under the age of one, which is too young to be eligible for the vaccine.

In late November, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization warned of a huge disruption in childhood measles vaccinations. Nearly 40 million children worldwide missed their measles vaccine in 2021, health agencies said.

At first glance, less than 100 reported cases doesn’t seem like a big deal, especially as we grapple with other illnesses, including COVID-19, the flu and RSV. But for Dr Steven Abelowitz, medical director of the pediatric medical group Coastal Kids, the current measles growth and under-vaccination of children around the world is “more than a canary in the coal mine”.

In 2019, just before the pandemic, the United States had the most reported measles cases since the 1990s. The majority of cases were in underimmunized communities and 89% of people with measles were not vaccinated or had an unknown vaccination status.

“Ironically, the silver lining of COVID was that we had 13 cases,” Abelowitz said, referring to the CDC’s official 2020 measles case count. “Now that we’re starting to see this outbreak here, that’s what we were very afraid of.”

Measles has been considered eliminated from the United States since 2000, which means that although there have been isolated outbreaks, there has been no “continuous transmission of disease for over 12 months”. In the decade before 1963, when the measles vaccine became available, 3 to 4 million people were infected and 48,000 were hospitalized each year.

There are a handful of measles cases each year in the United States, with small outbreaks occasionally occurring in communities with lower than normal vaccination rates. And while vaccinated children and adults have little to worry about when it comes to measles, vaccination delays and concentrated outbreaks once again draw attention to what happens when diseases infections find an opportunity to spread.

Ross Kedl, professor of immunology and microbiology at the University of Colorado’s Anschutz Medical Campus, said it’s “no coincidence” that the measles outbreak in Ohio is focused on children not vaccinated.

“If it’s in a susceptible population and in the right circumstances — which the holidays present quite well — it can grow quite quickly,” Kedl said.

Here’s what you need to know.

What is measles and what are its symptoms?

Measles is a highly contagious airborne disease that causes fever, red rash, cough and red eyes. It’s so contagious that up to 9 out of 10 people who don’t have protection (either from vaccination or previous infection) will get it, according to the CDC.

Symptoms usually appear between seven and 14 days after an exposure, and the rash will follow three to five days after the first symptoms, according to the CDC.

Many people are at risk for complications from measles, including young children under 5, adults over 20, pregnant women, and people with weakened immune systems.

Abelowitz says that in terms of severity, measles is “significantly higher than most of the viruses we are exposed to.”

According to the CDC, about one in five unvaccinated people who catch measles will be hospitalized.

An example of measles after three days with the rash.

US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

About the measles vaccine

Vaccination against measles is either covered by the MMR vaccine or by the MMRV vaccine. Both protect against multiple diseases, including measles, mumps, and rubella, but MMRV also includes varicella, which is the virus that causes chickenpox. For a full comparison between vaccines, see this table from the CDC.

The American Academy of Pediatrics and the CDC recommend that all children receive two doses of the measles vaccine: one injection between 12 and 15 months and another between 4 and 6 years of age.

Most people in the United States have been vaccinated against measles. This protection is considered permanent: one dose is about 93% effective and two doses are about 97% effective, with a range of 67% to 100%, according to the CDC. If not, or if you are unsure of your vaccination record, contact your doctor. You can get another dose of the MMR vaccine if you don’t have documentation, according to the CDC.

And if you were born before 1957 – regardless of your vaccination status – you also have protection against measles in the eyes of the CDC, because you probably had it as a child.

What can you do about it

Vaccinated adults have very little to worry about measles. If you are in the Columbus area, the Ohio Department of Health has more information on where people may have been exposed and what to do.

But if you are the parent of a young child who has missed one or both doses of the measles vaccine, contact your pediatrician as soon as possible. To go further into the holiday season where even more people will be traveling, making that phone call is very important, according to Abelowitz.

This applies not only to children in the United States, but to people living in all countries.

“For three years, we have been sounding the alarm about declining immunization rates and the growing health risk to children around the world,” said Ephrem Tekle Lemango, head of immunization at UNICEF, in a statement. press release last month. “We have a short window of opportunity to urgently catch up on lost ground in measles vaccination and protect every child. Now is the time to act decisively.”

According to Kedl, the Columbus outbreak is “consistent with the next stage of things” when measles vaccination rates continue to drop, adding that “the next thing that’s likely to happen is you’ll see an increased frequency of outbreaks.” “.

“It’s not a problem that needs a solution,” Kedl said. “It is a solution that must be accepted.”

The information in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended to constitute medical or health advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have about a medical condition or health goals.


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