Measles outbreak highlights importance of childhood immunizations


Physician Article

Measles outbreak highlights importance of childhood immunizations


The outbreak of measles linked to Disneyland in late 2014/early 2015 has reintroduced the vaccination issue among parents, especially those who decide not to vaccinate their children against mumps, measles and rubella (MMR).

California has had 59 measles cases since December, and 42 can be linked to initial exposure at Disneyland. Because the virus can linger on surfaces or in the air up to two hours after an infected person has left a location, those who contracted the highly contagious disease from the theme park included children under 12 months of age who were not old enough to receive the first MMR vaccination.

Measles also can be transmitted by contact with an infected person through coughing or sneezing. Infected persons are considered contagious from up to four days before a rash starts through four days after. Measles usually starts with a fever that lasts a couple of days, followed by coughing, runny nose, pink eye, and a rash that appears on the face, hairline, behind the ears, and then the entire body. 

Dr. Torey Harden, a pediatrician at West Georgia Kid Station Pediatrics in LaGrange, said he and Dr. Kalyani Rajeev encourage parents to follow the vaccination recommendations of physicians and other health providers. Dr. Rajeev also is a pediatrician at Kid Station Pediatrics.

“Vaccinations are often tried and convicted in the court of public opinion,” Dr. Harden said. “A lot of misinformation is out there saying vaccinations have high levels of toxins, or that they can cause autism. The flu shot especially gets a bad rap because people think the shot itself can make them sick.”

Social media also tends to spread misinformation faster, often through shared articles that appear to be spreading true information but are actually from biased sources.

“Articles and information can be shaped to tug at people’s emotions and morals,” he said. “Listening to what your friends say or what an Internet article says shouldn’t replace the guidelines developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and by state health departments. Your medical care providers know what the CDC recommends and can help you understand the importance of vaccinations so you can keep your child safe and healthy.”

Dr. Harden said when parents choose not to vaccinate their children, they not only are putting their own children at risk, but also are placing others in danger, as was the case at Disneyland.

Measles was considered to be eliminated in the United States in 2000, according to the CDC. Two doses of the MMR vaccine are more than 99 percent effective in preventing measles; two doses have been recommended since 1989.

Last year the United States had 644 confirmed cases in 27 states, a record high since measles was considered eradicated.

Dr. Harden says that he welcomes his parents to ask lots of questions and to voice their concerns when they bring their children to him for treatment.

“I like to take a teamwork approach with parents,” he said. “It’s an open line of communication between us. I’m a pretty easy-going guy, and I’m passionate about giving parents the right information they need to protect their children. There’s nothing we can’t work out together.”

Kid Station Pediatrics is located in Suite 504, 301 Medical Drive near West Georgia Health. The office can be reached at (706) 812-2655.