Health officials continue to encourage measles vaccinations as outbreak spreads

CHICAGO — April 24 through April 30 is World Immunization Week and with a measles outbreak happening in the country — the biggest in 25 years — the United States Department of Health and Human Services continues to tell the public the key to controlling the measles is vaccination.

Over 700 cases nationwide so far, seven identified in Illinois. While health professionals all over the globe do their best to manage the measles outbreak clinically, they are also trying to separate fact from fiction with one simple message.

“Immunizations are safe and effective and they are critical to overall health of population of the rest of our country,” Douglas O’Brien, regional director of the United States Department of Health and Human Services.

O’Brien said it’s never too late to get the shot and become part of the solution. He can’t tell you when the measles outbreak will subside, but he can tell you who right now is most at risk in the United States.

About 75% of cases are affecting people ages 20 and younger —most were not vaccinated.

"New generations of parents didn’t grow up understanding what kind of threat these communicable diseases can present to their children. They don’t see it as a threat to them because they’ve never lived with that risk," O'Brien said.

The simple answer is to get the vaccine, which is two doses of the measles, mumps and rubella as a child, which protects a person for life. If you’re uncertain you’re covered, talk to your doctor to see if a booster makes sense.

If you’re traveling internationally, certain countries might put you at a higher risk for exposure: like France, the Ukraine, the Philippines and Brazil. The World Health Organization and UNICEF blame the anti-vaccination movement.

Meanwhile, while the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and others, says there is no real harm in getting a booster, people are advised to talk with their doctor first.

“We feel very confident that CDC and local health departments have a handle on the current outbreak, we know where it is concentrated, and are doing what is necessary to restrict potential spread outside those areas of the country,” O'Brien said.

For more information on measles visit the following websites:

state.gov
dph.illinois.gov
vaccines.gov

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