Concerning New Data on Measles
November 19, 2019
Measles, a highly contagious viral disease, can cause serious and sometimes deadly side effects. But according to two new studies, even after patients recover from the infection it can continue to wreak long-term havoc on their immune systems.
Immune Amnesia and the Measles
As children, we face a variety of different illnesses: the flu, stomach bugs, ear infections, and croup to name just a few. As the immune system goes into defense mode and fights them off, it also remembers them – and how to protect the body the next time around. In other words, the immune system has a memory bank of sorts.
Researchers have determined that measles causes something they call “immune amnesia”. This means that the immune system’s memories of all the old illnesses it fought off in the past are erased, leaving the patient vulnerable to getting sick all over again.
The consequences of immune amnesia can be large-reaching and catastrophic. Getting vaccinated against measles is the primary line of defense against this threat. According to Dr. Michael Mina of the Harvard Medical School, when parents or caregivers neglect to vaccinate children against the measles virus they effectively cause: “them to lose this amazing resource of defenses they’ve built up over the years before measles, and that puts them at risk of catching other infections.”
Additionally, research indicates that the measles virus can wipe out the protections afforded from other vaccinations as well. This is a serious health issue, since there have been many recent outbreaks of measles in the United States. There have been at least 1,250 cases (in 31 states) of the measles this year. The bottom line is clear: getting the measles vaccine is crucial to protect yourself and your loved ones not only from the measles virus, but from a host of other deadly viruses also.
Measles Vaccination Data
Many people refuse measles vaccinations for different reasons – and the number of individuals foregoing these vaccines has increased. However, research consistently shows that the measles vaccine is safe and effective. In fact, between 2000 and 2017, the vaccine is estimated to have saved 21 million lives around the globe.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend that all children get two doses of the MMR (or measles-mumps-rubella) vaccine; the first dose should be administered somewhere between 12 to 15 months of age. The second dose should be administered between 4 and 6-years-old. The agency also recommends that adults without evidence of receiving the vaccine in childhood should get at least one dose (but some will need two).
Certain individuals face higher risks for contracting the measles virus than others. They are:
- Healthcare workers,
- International travelers,
- Individuals deemed as “high risk” by public health authorities during a measles outbreak, and;
- Students at post-high school institutions (e.g. college)
Some people should not get the MMR vaccine. These people include those who are allergic to the vaccine or one of its ingredients, individuals with weakened immune systems, pregnant women, someone with a history of tuberculosis or with a condition that causes them to bleed or bruise easily, and others. Be sure to talk to your doctor about getting the measles vaccine if you have questions or concerns.
Measles is so contagious because it is an airborne virus that spreads through an infected person’s sneezes and coughs. Knowing the signs and symptoms of measles is important. Some of the most common symptoms include:
- Red or watery eyes,
- Loss of appetite,
- Reddish, brown rash,
- White spots inside mouth,
- Dry, hacking cough and runny nose, and;
- A run down, lethargic feeling
To continue learning about measles and the MMR vaccine, please visit: https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vpd/mmr/public/index.html. If you are not yet vaccinated with the MMR vaccine, you should schedule an appointment with your healthcare provider today.
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