Doctors encourage parents to vaccinate children for measles

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - The debate over child immunizations continues across the country. A recent measles outbreak has parents questioning if they should vaccinate their children.

We took that question to doctors.

The latest numbers from the Centers For Disease Control show since January, 102 people in 14 states have been diagnosed with measles. Health officials are trying to make sure those cases don't spread to others.

Measles is a highly communicable respiratory disease caused by a virus and spread through the air. It's what's believed to have happened with the recent outbreak when someone sick with the disease visited Disneyland in California in December.

Doctors say early symptoms include fever, runny nose, cough, red eyes and a sore throat.

Some parents are hesitant to vaccinate their children. Doctors say much of that hesitation is because of misconceptions.

"I think people are worried about side effects but they don't necessarily really know what the true side effects of the vaccines really are," said  Palmetto Health Pediatrician Katie Stephenson. "We do provide that at all of the visits and before we give vaccines, we give information to all the patients about side effects which tend to be just very minimal and local. Shots hurt—that would be one of them. But for the most part side effects associated with vaccines are very, very rare."

Doctors say for those worried about side effects of getting a vaccine, there are very few. Side effects include a fever or small rash, which doctors say is normal.

In the1990's some reports suggested the measles vaccine was associated with autism--which is why doctors believe there is some hesitation when considering vaccinating children. However, doctors say the association between measles and autism has been disproved through several studies.

Mayo Clinic pediatrician Dr. Robert Jacobson said the lack of vaccinations among children is the reason for the nationwide outbreak.

There have not been any cases reported in South Carolina yet. But doctors say there is a 90% chance of catching the measles virus if an unvaccinated person comes into contact with someone who has it. Doctors say getting the vaccine helps everybody.

"Your child being vaccinated helps prevent a disease in your entire community," Stephenson said. "We look at some of these different communities where they're having the large outbreaks and we see a large number of unvaccinated children. So I think in the areas we do see a lot of vaccinated children, we see less and less disease and if we can universally vaccinate then we'll hopefully see the eradication of many more of these diseases."

Federal health officials said it's too early to predict how this year will compare with 2014, which saw more measles cases than any year since 1994.

But doctors are still encouraging everyone to get the measles vaccine in case it continues to spread. And if you have any questions about it you can contact your local doctor

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