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A measles outbreak occurs in Ohio. Experts warn that this will not be the last

A measles outbreak occurs in Ohio. Experts warn that this will not be the last

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In November as a growing number of cases for RSV, influenza and COVID worried parents across the country, parents in Ohio faced another, unexpected threat to their own children’s health: on measles.

Ohio Public Health (CPH) and Franklin County Public Health (FCPH) announced one week in November that they were investigating an outbreak of measles — at that time four children associated with a local child care facility. Measles, which can be easily spread by coughing, talking or staying in the same room, is highly contagious. Indeed, measles is thought to infect 90 percent of unvaccinated people who have been exposed. It is also amazingly contagious: only one virus, SARS-CoV-2 (which causes COVID-19) is known more infected than measles.

Most adults and older children are vaccinated against measles, but the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine is not offered to children under one year of age. This means that babies are often the most vulnerable.

Measles deaths were in the thousands in the first two decades of the 20th century. But by 2000, measles was declared eliminated from the United States, and no deaths were reported until 2015, when a woman in Washington was the first die after 12 years due to complications from measles.

“It’s certainly more significant than we’ve seen in years.”

Since then, there has been a significant resurgence of measles cases in the U.S. — such as the most recent outbreak in Ohio. More than a dozen unvaccinated Ohio children were initially infected, nine of whom were hospitalized. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) responded and deployed a small team to help with the outbreak. But by December, the number of infected children had risen to 59. Most recently, as of January 6, the number of measles cases had increased to 82 cases; 33 of them were hospitalized.

“Most of the measles outbreaks we’ve had have been very limited to just one or two cases,” Dean Blumberg, chief of pediatric infectious diseases and associate professor in the department of pediatrics at the University of California, Davis, told Salon. “It’s certainly more significant than we’ve seen in years.

According to data collected by Ohio Disease Reporting System, 23 of the infected were under one year of age, and 74 of the infected were unvaccinated against measles. Four of the infected children were partially vaccinated, and the vaccination status of the remaining four infected children is unknown.

Doctors recommend that children be vaccinated against measles in two doses: the first dose between 12 and 15 months of age, and the second between 4 and 6 years of age. The reported numbers are alarming, as the majority of these children were not vaccinated at all. One dose of measles vaccine is about 93 percent effective in preventing measles; two doses are about 97 percent effective.

According to CDC, approximately 90 percent of children in the U.S. are vaccinated against measles. But why are there more and more groups of parents choosing not to vaccinate their children? The main reason is misinformation about vaccines, a problem that predates the COVID-19 pandemic. While parental vaccine hesitancy is generally thought to be widespread in states like California, which infamously had a measles outbreak in 2014, the movement is also taking hold in the Midwest.

“Here in Ohio, we have some pretty active anti-vaccine groups,” said Tara Smith, a professor of epidemiology at Kent State University’s College of Public Health. said NBC News. “I’m really concerned that this is something that’s becoming more established here.

Blumberg told Salon that there are two major false claims surrounding the measles vaccine for children.

“The first is that they’re worried about the adverse effects of the measles vaccine itself, and the most common thing people talk about is autism — and that’s been completely debunked,” Bloomberg said.

“Unfortunately with the way social media is set up these days, the safeguards have been removed and there is a lot of misinformation that goes completely unchecked.”

Indeed, a study published in 1998 by a British doctor named Andrew Wakefield claimed to find evidence of a link between childhood measles vaccines and autism. This study has been since completely discredited. Wakefield is also banned from practicing medicine in the UK.

The Journal of American Medicine wrote recently that “getting the MMR [measles, mumps, rubella] the vaccine was not associated with an increased risk of ASD, [Autism spectrum disorder].”

Bloomberg said there’s another piece of misinformation that’s becoming more popular: that measles isn’t particularly dangerous.

“Although most people recover, some children die from measles or may be left with blindness, brain damage or other problems,” Bloomberg said. “Measles can lead to pneumonia, weaken the immune system and make children vulnerable to secondary infections, so it can be quite severe.”


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Bloomberg said there needs to be consistent messaging about public health, but he believes that’s harder to do with social media these days.

“Unfortunately with the way social media is set up these days, the safeguards have been taken down and there is a lot of misinformation that goes completely unchecked,” he said. “I really encourage anyone who has any questions about vaccination to really trust your healthcare provider, talk to them – they’re an important source of reliable information, not an influencer or a celebrity.”

As for the outbreak in Ohio, it appears to be slowing down — but public health officials worry that this is not a fluke, but perhaps the new normal, and not just in the United States, but around the world.

“The record number of under-immunized and measles-susceptible children shows the profound damage that immunization systems have suffered during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said CDC Director Rochelle P. Walensky, Ph.D. “Measles outbreaks illustrate weaknesses in immunization programs, but public health officials can use outbreak response to identify at-risk communities, understand the reasons for insufficient vaccination, and help provide locally tailored solutions to ensure that vaccinations are accessible to all.’

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