Health officials urge vaccinations as measles cases reported nationwide

Health officials urge vaccinations as measles cases reported nationwide

NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Measles outbreaks have been reported in the Pacific Northwest and now, cases have spread to the South.

Individual cases of measles have been confirmed in 10 states, including Texas and Georgia, and outbreaks have been reported in New York and Washington.

Louisiana Dept. of Health Medical Director Joseph Kanter said the outbreaks tend to center around places where vaccination rates are lower than average.

“These types of outbreaks tend to grow in communities where the vaccination rates are low. One of the things we do pretty good in Louisiana is vaccinate. Our rates are typically above national average,” Kanter said.

However, when cases are reported closer to home, the cause for worry increases, Kanter said. Recently, a handful of cases were reported in Houston, some of which included infants.

"We prefer it not to be in Houston, and I know we have a lot of travel going back and forth, so it's conceivable that somebody might be exposed to it," Kanter said.

According to the Louisiana Department of Health, so far no cases have been reported in the state.

"The last cases we've had were of a couple cases in the New Orleans area in the early summer of last year. Both of those two cases were imported from abroad," Kanter said.

According to the CDC’s website, 79 measles cases have been reported in the United States so far this year, which Dr. Fred Lopez, an infectious disease specialist with LSU Health, said is reason enough to ensure your children are fully vaccinated.

“It’s appropriate to sound an alarm, if you will, to make sure that we’ve all received appropriate immunizations, including the vaccination against measles, mumps and rubella,” Lopez said.

According to Lopez, the virus can stay in the air up to two hours after someone with measles leaves a room.

"Highly contagious. It passes either by direct contact with droplets that contain measles virus, or when a person who's infected, coughs, sneezes, maybe even talks in the vicinity of someone who's not infected, they can transmit the infection," Lopez said.

Doctors said there are two rounds of shots that are usually completed by the time kids start school.

“One shot of the vaccine, 93 percent protective. Two shots, 97 percent effective. So this is a vaccine-preventable illness,” Lopez said.

The disease was declared eradicated in the U.S. almost two decades ago and Kanter said experts never expected to be dealing with more outbreaks.

“You can classify this under things that we can’t believe we’re talking about in 2019. Measles is an easily preventable disease. We’ve had the vaccine for a number of years, we’ve considered it eliminated in the U.S. since the year 2000,” Kanter said.

Jeff Shyman said he took measures to protect his daughter.

"We jumped on getting our babies vaccinated when she was born. we thought that was about the best time," Shyman said.

Lopez said measles is the most contagious four days before and four days after a rash appears.

The highest number of measles cases nationwide was seen in 2014, when 667 cases were reported across the country.

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