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The Kid’s Doctor: Measles outbreak could have been avoided

At the entrance to Disneyland, a sign reads, “The Happiest Place on Earth.” It does not also say, “Beware of Infectious Diseases!” But, if you think about it, what better place to contract any infectious disease than a theme park, where many visitors are under the age of 12?

And based on my own experiences as a parent taking children to Disneyland, even if youngsters are not feeling well, nothing stops them when fun beckons. Not even a fever. Other parents have reported the same thing to me after trips to Disney: Tylenol, then off to the park.

So far, there have been more than 100 cases – and counting – of measles contracted by children while visiting Disneyland in December. Not all of the confirmed cases were in California; others were in Utah, Washington, Colorado and Mexico. With continued new cases, and our mobile population, unintentional exposures will occur, so unfortunately, more cases can be expected to crop up.

Alas, whenever you hear about outbreaks of measles, it’s important to remember that measles is a vaccine-preventable disease! However, this means your child needs to be vaccinated at 1 year old, and again between the age of 4 and 5. About ¾ of the current new measles patients were unvaccinated – by parental choice.

Several children were too young to receive the vaccine, so they were unprotected for that reason, but Orange County, Calif. – home of Disneyland – has one of the highest rates of vaccine refusers. Pediatrician Robert “Bob” Sears – author of “The Vaccine Book: Making the Right Decision for Your Child,” who practices there – admits that “many/most” of his patients refuse some vaccines.

In my humble opinion, Sears has had a big impact with families making vaccine choices. He has proposed an “alternative vaccine schedule,” which has not been scientifically proven to work. Dr. Paul Offit, a pre-eminent scientist, doctor and vaccine proponent, has some good articles on the topic of alternative vaccine schedules; check them out online (paul-offit.com).

This outbreak should be yet another wake-up call that many of the diseases younger parents think have disappeared are now showing a resurgence. Measles cases are at the highest level they’ve been for over 20 years in the U.S.

Pertussis (whooping cough) rates are on the rise here, as well. Polio continues to be a problem in other parts of the world despite huge efforts to vaccinate people and eradicate this disease.

Fortunately, there have been no deaths in the latest measles outbreak, but some victims have been hospitalized. I can only hope that more parents will have their children vaccinated; there’s no other way to stop this. It not only makes sense but it’s simple, as there are so many places to get a vaccine.

Dr. Sue Hubbard is a pediatrician, medical editor and media host. Submit questions at kidsdr.com.

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