Getting vaccinated can help stop measles from spreading
About 3,800 school-age children in Idaho likely are not fully immunized for the measles.
That’s based on data for the measles, mumps and rubella vaccination — known as the MMR — and exemption rates at Idaho schools, gathered by the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare.
There is a measles outbreak in Clark County, Washington, across the Columbia River from Portland, Oregon, with at least 43 confirmed cases. While no infections have been reported in Idaho, at least one public health department has issued a notice for schools and day-care centers to be on the lookout for signs of the illness and make sure they have accurate vaccination records.
The Central District Health Department noted that symptoms include fever, cough, red eyes, sore throat, runny nose and a rash that can spread over the body.
The good news for Treasure Valley parents is that local schools have pretty high rates of children being up-to-date on their MMR shots. About 94 percent of students in Ada County and 95 percent in Canyon County are assumed to be immunized, based on exemption records for their schools. That does leave about 1,600 students in those counties, combined, who might not be protected from the measles.
Surrounding counties also have more than 90 percent of their school-age children protected from the measles.
Idaho schools keep track of students’ vaccination status, and parents can file an exemption if they choose not to get their kids immunized or their child can’t get vaccines for medical reasons.
Statewide, about 5 percent of students probably don’t have their MMR shots.
The northern part of Idaho has a higher rate of kids at risk for contracting the measles than the rest of the state. About 18 percent of students in Boundary County and 17 percent in Bonner County are assumed not to have their MMR vaccines. Schools in Idaho, Shoshone, Lemhi, Valley and Camas counties also had double-digit exemption rates.
Why, exactly, are the measles so dangerous?
The disease is highly contagious and can have complications that are deadly.
Nine out of 10 people who aren’t vaccinated will contract the measles just by being in the same room as someone who’s infected, according to WebMD. A person can spread it for up to four days before they realize they’re sick, the Mayo Clinic says.
About one in four people end up hospitalized from the measles. And it’s especially dangerous for young children and babies. They can die from pneumonia or encephalitis — brain swelling — brought on by the measles.
The measles, mumps and rubella vaccine is available for children and adults, in two doses, and is safe and effective, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The first dose of the MMR is typically given when a child is 12 to 15 months old.
Measles was basically eradicated in the U.S. after the introduction of the vaccine. But a drop in vaccination rates has brought a resurgence. “The rate of measles in the U.S. recently jumped from an average of 60 cases a year to 205 cases annually,” the Mayo Clinic says.