Ho'okele Staff | Jul 28, 2012
15th Medical Group
A recent travel advisory published by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services warned international travelers to ensure their measles vacci-nations are current.
Measles is a highly infectious virus that is typically spread by coughing or sneezing. Symptoms of measles may resemble those of seasonal influenza as they include coughing, fever and a runny nose. Combined with upper respiratory symptoms, measles is characterized by a rash all over the body.
According to Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, there has been a significant spike in measles cases recently. Fauci attributed the sudden increase in cases to U.S. residents returning from abroad.
“People who live in the United States who go traveling come back and bring [measles] back, and they themselves expose other people who are unvaccinated,” he said.
Reports by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) support Fauci’s testimony.
“Virtually all measles outbreaks in the United States today are caused by someone bringing the disease in from another country and spreading it to others,” stated a CDC report titled “Measles Can Travel.”
Although the national incidence of measles has been relatively low in the past, there were 196 confirmed cases among U.S. residents in 2011. The CDC estimates that more than 30,000 people in Europe alone contracted measles in 2011. The World Health Organization describes measles as a common disease worldwide as some 20 million people contract measles each year.
“Many people have the misconception that these diseases are no longer present,” said Lt. Col. Michelle Flores, a pediatrician assigned to the 15th Medical Group at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam. “Many diseases are just a plane ride away and may arrive at our doorstep at any time.”
Of the 196 cases among US residents in 2011, 166 persons were unvaccinated or had unknown vaccination status. The highly infectious nature of the preventable disease can also lead to additional illnesses and premature death.
“Measles is of significant concern because it is one of the most highly communicable of all infectious diseases and can cause secondary infections such as pneumonia and encephalitis which may result in permanent brain damage,” Flores said.
According to the CDC, approximately one out of 10 children with measles also gets an ear infection, and up to one out of 20 gets pneumonia.
“For parents, it can be a challenge to determine when a child has contracted an illness that may be life-threatening,” said Capt. Chelsea Payne, a family practice physician assigned to the 15th Medical Group. “It is important to monitor children and seek urgent care for alarm symptoms such as high fever, inability to tolerate fluids and inconsolability.”
“The best way to protect yourself, your children and your neighbors is to ensure that you have been fully vaccinated for measles,” said Maj. George Tripp, a pediatrician assigned to the 15th Medical Group.
Flores suggested that parents consider vaccinating young children prior to receiving routine vaccinations that take place between 12 to 15 months of age. The CDC recommends the measles vaccination for infants between six to 12 months of age prior to taking an international trip.
Protection from contracting measles is available via the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccination. Tricare beneficiaries are eligible to receive the MMR vaccine on Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam at the Hickam immunizations clinic, Makalapa immunizations clinic and the Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard immunizations clinic.