COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - A cough or a sneeze from someone infected by the measles lives in the air for two hours. Which means you may never know who infected you with the ultra-contagious disease.
The United States is on track to break the record of measles cases since the disease was declared eliminated. This week we found out there are more than 600 cases around the country, with some reporting cases for the first time ever. The advice from Prisma Health Pediatric Disease Doctor Anna-Kathryn Burch is simple: get vaccinated, and get your kids vaccinated too.
“Vaccines are great. They are the reason we haven’t been talking about particular diseases in a long time,” Dr. Burch said. “When did we ever talk about whooping cough? Twenty or thirty years ago. When did we talk about measles? Twenty, thirty years ago. Or polio? After the ’60s or ’70s, we didn’t. Because vaccines work so well.”
She says there are outbreaks right now in Washington and New York, and while it hasn't hit South Carolina yet this year, there have been 626 cases so far across America, with Iowa and Tennessee just reporting cases last week.
Dr. Burch says the measles is so contagious, that the particles can live in the air for up to two hours after someone who is infected coughs or sneezes.
"That means random you or I walking in the streets... walking in the way of where a person was with the measles can still be infected with the measles,” Dr. Burch said. “Thirty minutes or an hour later. You don't even know who is infecting you."
Vaccines are the reason we haven't talked about particular diseases like whooping cough, polio or the measles in years, Dr. Burch said. But there are people who are exempt from vaccinating - for religious or medical reasons. Health officials in areas where a measles outbreak has been seen say most of their cases came from unvaccinated children and there are some in South Carolina.
“It is their worst nightmare,” Dr. Burch said. “For their child who cannot protect themselves to get a disease because someone didn’t get their kid vaccinated. If I could just plead to those parents: science is good. Science doesn’t lie. There is good information out there. That vaccines are safe and they don’t harm you. Vaccines do not cause autism. That is the biggest myth out there that started a lot of this mess. If I could just convince them that this is the truth, I hope that they’ll listen and get themselves and their kids vaccinated.”
For this school year, Richland County reports 781 unvaccinated students. That equals about 1.28 % percent of the student population, all of this according to DHEC.
Over in Lexington County, there were 762 unvaccinated children-- which is 1.3 % of that student population. Across the state, there are more than 11,000 unvaccinated children. While that number may sound high-- it’s only 1.4 % of students in the state.