Measles outbreak spurs vaccine frenzy

Measles outbreak spurs vaccine frenzy
Friday, August 23, 2013 - 4:07pm

The outbreak of measles in Texas is alarming people across the state to get immunized against this extremely contagious disease.

And for good reason, according to Dr. Robert Martinez of Doctors Hospital at Renaissance.

"What measles is is a virus that's very hard to control once it gets out of control," said Martinez, Chief Medical Officer at DHR.  "That respiratory droplet gets into the respiratory system of the host, the new host, and it spreads like wildfire."

And the best way to stop that fire?  Make sure you have both doses of the measles vaccine.  Children are required to have two doses of the MMR, or measles-mumps-rubella vaccine, before entering school.

Dr. Brian Smith, Regional Director at Texas Department of State Health Services, says that children are more commonly immunized than adults.

"We're at about 94 percent coverage in Texas, so we're doing pretty well in Texas, but that leaves six percent who aren't immunized," said Smith.  "Adults forget sometimes they're supposed to get immunized."

Measles isn't the only immunization adults forget about.  Some other important vaccines adults should have include the T-dap shot for pertussis (whooping cough) and tetanus, as well as the vaccine for pneumonia.  Also on the list are vaccines for influenza, shingles, and of course, measles.

Doctors say failure to get these doses leads to unnecessary fatalities every year.

"The nice thing about the pneumonia vaccine is it buys you five years of immunity," said Martinez.  "And pneumococcal pneumonia kills very many people every year."

Dr. Smith adds that the Tdap shot it important for adults to have to prevent the spread of whooping cough.

"We have an outbreak of whooping cough that's been ongoing for several years in Texas," Smith said.  "And particularly this year where we're running about 50 percent above last year's number of cases."

Doctors stress that healthcare workers, pregnant women, college students, elderly people, and those with a weak immune systems are at higher risk for diseases and therefore encouraged to get all necessary vaccines.  International travelers also need up-to-date vaccinations, especially to prevent the outbreak of other diseases.

"People that are going out of the country should be vaccinated against those diseases because in those countries they don't have the control or ability to quarantine like we do in the United States," Martinez said.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention offers an online quiz for adults to see if they are in need of certain vaccines.

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