We’ve all heard the news— children in Bedford and Mt. Kisco have recently been infected with the measles and there are three diagnosed cases in Connecticut. The epidemic has officially spread from NYC (primarily Brooklyn) to Westchester, as well as across the country. We spoke to Dr. Darria Long, ER doctor, mom of two and author of bestselling national book Mom Hacks, about what all concerned moms (and, to be honest, that’s all of us) should know.
Why is this epidemic happening now?
In 2000, we declared measles and mumps eradicated form the U.S. But I think a combination of two factors has contributed to the issue. In 18 years, we’ve become a global community. So somebody who was not vaccinated went to Israel, where there was an outbreak, and they brought it back. Also, we’re seeing a decline in vaccination rates over the last 10 years. When someone is unvaccinated, they can bring a disease back to an unvaccinated population, and you see an outbreak.
How contagious is measles?
Measles is ripe for this type of epidemic that because it’s incredibly contagious. If you are not vaccinated and you are in a room with someone with measles, you have a 90 percent change of getting it.
When should children be vaccinated?
For measles, the recommended first dose is 12 to 15 months, and 4 to 6 years for the second. If you’re in an outbreak community, a child can be vaccinated as early as 6 months. Some of the mothers’ antibodies pass on to the baby, but definitely have worn off after a few months.
So if you have a newborn, how do you protect them?
Unfortunately, there is no good way to protect someone too young to be vaccinated or who is immunocompromised, besides not letting them get exposed at all. You’re vaccinating for your child but also every baby and person who can’t get it.
But is there anything you can do?
If you have a child who is too young, and you live in an outbreak area, I would not take them anywhere they can be exposed—restaurants, stores, public transportation. You as a parent should wash your hands and face and change your clothes when you come home.
Why are the measles so bad?
One in 1000 people infected will die, and others can get meningitis or encephalitis which is an inflammation of the brain. And for three years after getting the measles, your immune system is comprised, so kids are at higher risk of catching every single infection.
I’ve been hearing about “measles parties” where parents are allowing their children to get infected….
Measles parties make absolutely no sense—there is no “benefit” or controlled infection. It’s like saying when I break my arm it will be stronger later but you’re not going to break your children’s bones to make them stronger, right? People who are doing this are putting their children at a huge risk.
Anything else you want to share?
As a mom of two, I dive into this stuff because it scares me, too. In terms of autism, the evidence is exceptionally clear that the single researcher that claimed to have found a tie had used fraudulent data and has lost his license. There have been many studies in the US and Europe that have been unable to find any connection between vaccine and autism.
(For more on the measles epidemic in our community, read this article from ABC NY Moms.)