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California measles outbreak highlights importance of vaccination

Some Missouri health officials are stressing the importance of vaccination in light of a measles outbreak on the west coast.

The California Department of Health said Friday it received 49 reports of measles in the state, many in Orange County. California had only four reports of measles at the end of March 2013.

Although the outbreak is on the west coast, the disease spreads quickly. In Missouri, doctors must report a case of measles to the state within one day of noticing it. Missouri Health Department outreach director Ryan Hobart said the quick turnaround gives the state enough time to isolate the disease.

“There’s no known cure for measles,” Hobart said. “You can treat the symptoms and try to help somebody get better, but the best way to avoid it in the first place, and to try and make sure you’re protected, is to try to get your vaccinations when you’re supposed to.”

The Centers for Disease Control recommend children receive a vaccine for measles, mumps and rubella (called an MMR vaccine) at 12 months old, then again at 4 years old.

Pediatrician John Wilson, owner of the practice Como Cubs in Columbia, said parents often voice concerns about vaccinations, including the amount an infant receives at one time.

“We know that babies come in to contact with millions of germs a day as they’re developing their immune systems, and they handle that just fine every day,” Wilson said. “Giving an extra five things for their body to react to is nothing for them.

Wilson said parents often hear things from friends and see things online that deter them from getting their child vaccinated. A popular one, Wilson said, is a 1998 study that linked the MMR vaccine to autism in children – a study that has since been retracted from the journal it was published in due to scientific conflicts in the report.

“At this point, with all the research that’s been done, we know more certainly than pretty much anything else in medicine that no vaccines, especially not the MMR, have any correlation or any cause for autism, and that was the big one that people were worried about,” Wilson said.

Vaccines, however, aren’t perfect. Wilson said only 90 to 95 percent of people receiving a vaccine are fully immune, depending on how the person’s immune system responds to the vaccine. He said it was still important children receive the vaccine to lower the population’s susceptibility to the disease.

“If enough people are getting it, then you start to make up for the fact that some people aren’t totally immune,” Wilson said. “There’s enough people around that are that it’s just not being spread.”

Both Wilson and Hobart said people are more likely to contract a disease like measles when traveling to an area with low vaccination rate.

(Video note: The anchor says there have been 49 measles cases in “this state” instead of “in California.”

A graphic identifies a man as Dr. John Wilson. It is actually Ryan Hobart, community outreach director at the Missouri Department of Health & Senior Services.)

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