PHILADELPHIA—Ohio public health authorities are warning the public in Central Ohio that an ongoing measles outbreak has grown to more than 80 cases since November 9. While there is no known connection between Philadelphia and these cases, this outbreak highlights the danger of children not being vaccinated. In this outbreak, all of those with measles are children. Seventy-six of the 81 children with measles were completely unvaccinated, while none who were fully vaccinated have caught the virus. Two-thirds of the cases are in children younger than five, and 22 are younger than 1 year old. Twenty-nine of the children (35%) have been hospitalized.
“It is heartbreaking to hear about the Ohio outbreak,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Cheryl Bettigole. “Measles is what we call a vaccine-preventable disease because being fully vaccinated against it is very highly protective. For decades in the United States, we saw virtually no measles outbreaks because vaccine rates were so high. Now, vaccine rates nationally are falling, and children are getting sick again. We are hopeful that Philadelphia’s very high vaccine rates – among the best in the United States – continue to protect our children, but it’s still good to be safe. Parents, make sure your children are up-to -date on their immunizations, and if not, get them vaccinated as soon as possible. No parent wants to see their child sick or hospitalized, and this vaccine can prevent that.”
The Philadelphia Department of Public Health reminds parents to check with their pediatrician’s office to make sure that their children are up-to-date on their recommended vaccine series. The Health Department recommends that early childhood education centers and day cares review their attendee’s immunization records.
Measles is one of the most contagious human viruses, more so than COVID-19, and is spread when someone who is infected coughs or sneezes. The virus is capable of causing serious complications and death. Fortunately, measles is almost entirely preventable through vaccination. Measles was virtually unheard of in the United States until several years ago. The most famous recent outbreak was connected with Disneyland in 2014. The CDC reports that they have recorded more than 400 cases nationally in just two of the last twelve years, with many annual case counts under 100. It is feared that many families have forgone childhood vaccinations due to the pandemic and disinformation about vaccines recently, and this could put children at risk.
Fortunately, measles is almost entirely preventable through vaccination. Children should receive two doses of the Measles, Mumps, Rubella (or MMR) vaccine to be completely protected. The first dose should be administered between 12 and 15 months of age, and the second dose between four and six years of age. Children who are less than one year old cannot be vaccinated and their safety depends on the vaccination status of those around them. The Health Department strongly recommends that children follow the recommended vaccine schedule to protect them against a variety of vaccine-preventable diseases.
The Health Department continues to work closely with healthcare providers to ensure that all measles diagnoses are reported immediately. A Health Update was sent to healthcare providers with information on diagnosis, testing, infection control measures, and post exposure prophylaxis. Parents are encouraged to check with their pediatrician to learn if their child is up to date on their immunizations. Early childhood education centers and day cares are encouraged to review their attendee’s immunization records. Residents can learn more about where they can get their children vaccinated on this webpage: https://www.phila.gov/services/mental-physical-health/get-vaccinated/vaccinate-your-child/.