Weakened Immune System? Watch Out For Measles

February 17, 2015

Sick at SchoolThe Measles outbreak that started at Disneyland is still sweeping the country. Problematically, pretty much everyone is at risk—whether or not they had it as a child or had a vaccination.

Why? The most common reason is that people with a weakened immune system lose some (or all) of their immunity, and can get either a more mild case of the measles, or a full blown one.

The second reason is that the vaccine is 99% effective after every dose—and 95% effective without the last dose (so 5 out of 100 vaccinated pre-K kids don’t have immunity yet).

In a school setting, this means there will be at least 1 in 100 kids at risk of becoming ill because the vaccine didn’t take—and several more at risk because their immune systems are weakened from stress, lack of sleep, illness, etc. My highschool had almost 2000 students. If 1 kid came in with the measles (because of studying abroad, or the current outbreak, or whatever), it could quickly spread to a couple dozen more, not even counting teachers!

This translates into a problem for the community at large. Kids are often surprisingly active (not just stuck in school all day), so beyond aging family members you have those volunteering (retirement communities and hospitals are popular choices), or working for a school club at a public event, or showing up for an important competition with hundreds of people in attendance (then mentally multiply that risk for cities with decent public transit). How many Girl Scouts have you seen this month?

Then there’s the adults who get measles, and who travel, or have to go to work because they don’t have sick leave, etc. The outbreak started at Disneyland because it’s a common destination for an array of travelers, and in a state known for being anti-vaccine, and having lots of tourists—but that doesn’t mean it’s any higher risk than, say, major airports, other amusement parks, or even your local gym (play areas frequently shut down because of outbreaks of both common and uncommon childhood diseases, they are just small-scale enough to not make headlines).

Point being: we all need to be watching and taking precautions as measles spreads. The people most likely to catch it are also most likely to experience serious side-effects, and there are lots of little hubs in each of our communities where an outbreak might start.

Here are some places health officials are keeping a close eye on:

-San Francisco/Silicon Valley area (many babies/kids in daycares are unvaccinated at an increased risk).
-Boulder, CO (Colorado tops the list of unvaccinated kids, and they tend to be lumped together).
-Oklahoma (Also has a low vaccination rate).
-Anywhere there’s already been at least 1 case in the last few months—check your local headlines

Make sure that you’re taking care of you—staying in when ill, bundling up in bad whether, eating well, sleeping, and supporting your immune system. You may think it’s just a mild cold and you can make it through work, but that cold is giving your immune system a work over, and leaves you more open to other diseases—like measles—than normal!

What do you think of the measles outbreak?

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