You’ve probably heard by now that measles, once thought to be vanquished, is back. During the first half of this year, there were 16 outbreaks in 20 states, with more than 477 confirmed cases. While there’s no need to panic, it’s important to take steps to safeguard your family, especially since not all your child’s schoolmates may be vaccinated.
Public schools in almost all states — except Mississippi and West Virginia — offer exemptions for religious reasons; in 19 other states, a parent can opt out based on personal or moral beliefs. Once the vaccination rate dips below 92 to 94%, the entire community can begin to see effects. (See where your state stands at Cdc.gov/vaccines.)
While the unvaccinated are the most vulnerable, even those who have had their shots are not 100% protected. “At best, a vaccinated child has a 98% protection rate after two doses. Some children just don’t respond to the vaccine and never develop immunity,” says Nadia K. Qureshi, M.D., pediatric infectious disease specialist at Loyola University Health System in Maywood, IL.
To protect your kid, “talk to your pediatrician about whether she can be vaccinated earlier than the schedule dictates and about catch-up immunizations if your child skipped,” she says. (This is especially important for those planning a trip abroad or who will be in contact with people who’ve been globetrotting; the measles virus is often initially contracted overseas, where it continues to affect over 100,000 people each year.) Also, know what measles looks like: About 8 to 12 days after exposure, it begins with a fever that moves to a cough with runny nose and red eyes; about 2 to 4 days later, a red and spotty rash starts on the face and spreads over the body. If you suspect measles, get to the doc ASAP. For more info on the importance of vaccinations, go to Scholastic.com/measles.