Thirteen years ago, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention declared that measles were eliminated in the United States, and we rejoiced that the MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccine had made this scourge go the way of disco and the mullet.
Before the vaccine, 3 to 4 million people in North American contracted measles every year; more than 1,000 developed a chronic disability, such as brain dysfunction, because of the disease; and 400 to 500 people died, many of them children.
Since the vaccine, deaths and severe brain dysfunction have largely disappeared. But during the first eight months of this year, there were 159 cases of measles in 16 states the largest outbreak in the U.S. since 1996. How could this happen when immunization virtually wiped out the disease?
Well, 131 of the cases hit folks who had never been vaccinated. Chances are the infections came in on unvaccinated travelers. When they landed on our shores, they infected those Americans who also haven't been vaccinated.
So far, there havent been any reported deaths, but measles can trigger a high fever, congestion, sore throat and a body-covering rash. Out of every 1,000 children who get the measles, one or two will die.
Most states require the MMR vaccine in order to attend public schools. But if you or your kids haven't received the vaccine, talk to your primary-care doc about getting one ASAP. You'll protect yourself, your kids and others in your community as well.
Mehmet Oz, M.D., is host of The Dr. Oz Show, and Mike Roizen, M.D., is chief medical officer at the Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute. To live your healthiest, visit sharecare.com. Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.