Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Measles and Pertussis: Diseases that are still affecting children here in the United States

We tend to think that diseases that can be prevented by vaccinations occur only in third world countries. According to the World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Office for Europe, over 8,000 cases of measles were reported in the last year. Of these cases, 86% of them were in the westernized countries of Germany, the United Kingdom, Austria, Switzerland, Italy and Spain as well as Israel.

Did you know that 9 out of the 10 European Union countries had the lowest average rate of measles immunization during 2000 thru 2007? With the dollar being weak in comparison to the euro, many Europeans find it a bargain to come to the U.S. for vacation. Just as swine flu has traveled around the world from Mexico, a measles outbreak can travel just as easily from Europe to the United States. Right here in DuPage County last summer we had children who contracted the measles.

We tend to feel the risk is low for our children to contract a disease due to previous generations receiving vaccinations en masse. Yes, the risk has declined but the susceptibility and severity of disease hasn’t decreased. Children are just as susceptible as ever!

Let’s talk about something that is far more common: Influenza. Think of how many children in your school district that have brought the flu home along with their homework. Every year there is a flu vaccine yet many children don't receive it. While influenza might seem mild in comparison to measles or whooping cough there were over 20,000 children hospitalized during the 2007-2008 flu season due to complications and unfortunately 83 children died.

Diseases can have serious complications. Pertussis (whooping cough) which was nearly eliminated in the 60’s is today seeing resurgence. Unfortunately this particular disease has a high incidence of death for children under the age of 2. We encourage you to take a moment to view a video of a two year old with whooping cough: http://www.flickr.com/photos/k0rtnie/3073952519/

We are now doing a booster for pertussis along with the tetanus booster at 11 years of age. The CDC recommends that all adults obtain a pertussis booster as part of their ten year tetanus booster. We recommend that both adults and children be up to date with pertussis and measles prior to traveling out of the country. As stated above, immunizations rates are lower in other countries including Western Europe.

We all want what is best for our children. Until scientific evidence definitely pinpoints the safety of a vaccine, we must think on a larger scale. We must think about the risk not only to our children but to all the children in our neighborhoods, our schools and our communities.

For more information, please watch the following video: http://today.msnbc.msn.com/id/26184891/vp/30938541#30938541

The New England Journal of Medicine has an excellent article on vaccinations at:
http://content.nejm.org/cgi/content/full/360/19/1981

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