LANSING (AP) – The largest measles outbreak in the U.S. in more than a decade has made it all the more important for children in Michigan to get immunized against the potentially fatal disease, the Michigan Academy of Family Physicians said Wednesday.
Michigan has the nation’s third-highest rate of childhood immunization, with 93.7 percent of children aged 19 months to 35 months having had their shots as of 2010. That’s up from 90.6 percent the year before. Nevertheless, this means more than 6 percent are not protected against the disease.
The federal Centers for Disease Control reports that at least 214 children have been infected with measles nationally this year – the largest measles outbreak in 15 years and a 300 percent increase in the average number of cases per year. Cases have appeared in more than 20 states.
The academy notes that measles is so contagious that any child who is exposed and isn’t immune probably will get the disease, which in some cases can lead to pneumonia, encephalitis and death.
“This year more than any other in recent memory, it is important that parents immunize their children against preventable but devastating diseases like the measles,” academy President Peter Graham said in a release. “Immunizations are a simple step that can keep Michigan kids healthy, even with outbreaks on the rise and children being hospitalized by the dozens in nearby states like Indiana and Minnesota.”
A recent measles outbreak in neighboring Indiana infected 14 residents, while an outbreak in Minnesota this fall resulted in 21 infections and 14 hospitalizations, according to the CDC. Michigan has reported three cases this year, including one case reported in the first week of November, according to a weekly state Disease Report.
“We have to keep our guard up against measles by having as many of our citizens protected as possible. This is an easily preventable disease,” Dean Sienko of the Michigan Department of Community Health wrote in a release earlier this year when the number of measles cases began rising nationally.
Michigan didn’t report any measles cases in 2010, according to the department. But it did have cases reported of other communicable diseases for which vaccines are available, including 48 cases of mumps and 1,577 cases of pertussis, which causes violent coughing that can make it hard to breathe. It was the highest number of pertussis cases reported since 1962, the department said in a report. The state also had 1,442 cases of chicken pox.
It’s recommended that children get two doses of measles vaccine, one at 12-15 months old and the second when they’re aged 4 to 6. Adults born before 1957 who didn’t get immunized as children should get at least one dose of vaccine as an adult, according to MDCH.
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