This column appears in the Nevada Appeal’s Tuesday health pages. It addresses topics related to the health of our community.
National Infant Immunization Week is a reminder that children need vaccines right from the start.
You know about the importance of car seats, baby gates, bike helmets, and other ways to keep your child safe. But, did you know that one of the best protections is to make sure they are vaccinated on time, every time? Every dose, of every vaccine, is essential to prevent 14 serious and potentially deadly diseases before age 2.
One of those diseases we keep hearing about is measles. Already in 2018, 15 states have reported over 40 cases of this disease. The good news is that we have a solution: vaccines. However, we need to expand access so more children in the U.S., and around the world, can stay safe. With measles cases recently identified in Nevada and California, you may be hearing a lot on social media and in the news about this disease. What do you need to know about measles?
Measles can be serious. Some people think of measles as a little rash and fever that clears up in a few days. Unfortunately, measles can cause serious health complications and death, especially in children younger than 5 years of age. There is no way to tell in advance the severity of the symptoms your child will experience.
Measles is very contagious. Measles spreads through the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes. It is so infectious that if one person has it, 9 out of 10 people around him or her will also become infected if they are not protected. Measles can be spread to others before symptoms appear— from four days before developing the measles rash through four days afterward.
You can still get measles in the United States. Measles is a leading cause of death for children worldwide — killing an average of 246 children every day. It is also a highly contagious disease that does not stop at borders. Although the U.S. eliminated measles in 2000, it continues to be brought into the U.S. (the cases in Nevada and California were from an unvaccinated traveler) putting children and anyone else who are not protected at risk. That is why it is essential we support the elimination of measles everywhere.
The best protection is the MMR vaccine. You have the power to protect your child against measles with a safe and effective vaccine. Two doses of MMR vaccine (age 12 months and age 4 years) are required for childcare and school enrollment. Your child’s healthcare provider may offer the MMRV vaccine, which protects against measles, mumps, rubella, and varicella (chickenpox). If you do not have insurance or if your insurance does not cover vaccines for your child, the Vaccines for Children (VFC) program may be able to help. This program helps families of eligible children who might not otherwise have access to vaccines. To find out if your child qualifies, visit the VFC website at http://www.vfcnevada.org, or ask your healthcare provider.
Today’s childhood vaccines protect against serious and potentially life-threatening diseases, including polio, whooping cough, and chickenpox. Thanks to global efforts like the Measles and Rubella Initiative, measles deaths have dropped by 84 percent since 2000. Now, we need to finish the job and protect every child from all vaccine-preventable diseases. To celebrate the public health achievements of vaccines and the importance of immunizations throughout our lives, Immunize Nevada is joining with partners nationwide in recognizing April 21-28 as National Infant Immunization Week (NIIW). Every child should have a shot at a healthy life in Nevada, the U.S., and worldwide.
If you have questions about measles or any of other vaccine-preventable diseases, visit immunizenevada.org, or follow us on social media. For information about services and infant, child, and adult vaccines available to you through Carson City Health and Human Services, visit gethealthycarsoncity.org or www.facebook.com/cchhs, or call 775-887-2190. You can also find Carson City Health and Human Services at 900 E. Long St. in Carson City.
Heidi Parker is the executive director of Immunize Nevada.