The current measles outbreak in Western Washington is a sober reminder that we all need to encourage timely vaccinations for our children in the community to protect them from communicable diseases. At GreenField Health, we want to ensure that our patients are educated about the benefits of vaccinations and what you can do to limit the spread of infection in our communities.
Measles is caused by a virus that is especially contagious. Prior to 1963, when the first vaccine was developed for the virus, it was estimated that nearly all children under the age of 15 got the measles. Of those that had measles in a given year, about 400-500 people died, 48,000 were hospitalized, and 1,000 had suffered an infection of the brain (encephalitis) as a result of the measles virus.
Due to an aggressive vaccination campaign starting in the mid-1960’s and beyond, the US saw a drastically reduced rate of measles in the community. However, we still see some communities where vaccination rates lagged and these communities are the most vulnerable when even one individual contracts the virus from another location where there are lower vaccination rates for the measles. This is what is causing the current measles outbreak in Western Washington and 1 reported case so far in Oregon; all of them affecting children.
If you were born before 1957, the CDC as deemed most likely that you have already contracted the measles virus. This means that you have developed lifelong immunity as if you already had a vaccine for it. Having immunity to the measles decreases the chance that you can spread the measles virus to others. If you were born after 1957 and you went through public school, there is pretty good chance that you received the measles vaccine (usually given at 1 year of age and right before you enter kindergarten). If you are not sure if you have received a vaccine in the past, there is a blood test to determine if you have developed immunity from the measles. We also have the measles vaccine in stock in our clinics If you are needing to be immunized. Please contact your doctor at GreenField Health to learn more.