Measles, the highly contagious virus that has been well contained until recent years, is back in Michigan, and vulnerable populations are again at risk. The state’s vaccination rate, which was on the decline for several years, needs to increase in order to contain preventable infections, says Michigan Chapter, American Academy of Pediatrics.
“We are urging parents to educate themselves about the risks of not vaccinating their children,” says Dr. Matt Hornik, MIAAP president-elect. “The decision not to protect your child has far-reaching effects beyond your own families. We are seeing evidence now of preventable outbreaks that are putting other children and families in harm’s way. Measles are among life-threatening diseases, like whooping cough and mumps, that are preventable.”
Pregnant women and people who have illnesses that compromise their immune systems and people who are taking medications that weaken their immune systems are at highest risk. Those who have not been vaccinated and think they could be exposed to the virus can limit the likelihood of contracting the disease by getting the vaccination within 72 hours of exposure. Those born in 1957 or earlier are considered immune from measles.
Measles symptoms – high fever, cough, runny nose, red watery eyes -- usually appear seven to 14 days after a person is infected, or as long as 21 days later. After respiratory symptoms begin, tiny white spots are often visible on the gums, roof of the mouth and inside the cheeks. A raised, blotchy rash usually starts on the face before spreading to the trunk, arms and legs.
Michigan’s childhood immunization rate ranks at 43rd in the United States. Michigan accounts for 19 of the 228 measles cases in the nationwide outbreak. Michigan requires mandatory vaccinations for children in the public school system, but parents are able to obtain a waiver which exempts the student from the requirements. In some areas of Michigan, 1 in 10 students are granted a waiver, and the number could be growing.
The World Health Organization includes “vaccine hesitancy” among the top 10 global health threats in 2019.
MIAAP supports the “I Vaccinate” campaign, headed by the Michigan Department of Health & Human Services, an information campaign raising awareness of the importance of vaccines and the role they play in preventing deadly diseases.
MIAAP has called on Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and the Michigan Legislature to promote vaccinations as part of its vision for healthy children and secure families.
“Investing in our children should be the highest priority for the Legislature and the new administration,” says Jared Burkhart, MIAAP executive director, “child health and well-being must be elevated and maintained as a priority in our state”.
MIAAP is a nonprofit, professional organization of more than 1,400 Michigan pediatricians, dedicated to the optimal physical, mental and social health for all infants, children, adolescents and young adults.