Get your shotsAt the end of mass on Sunday, our priest announced that a parishioner had attended mass recently with pertussis, better known as whooping cough. 

As a hypochondriac in denial, I began to feel flushed. Did I have a fever? My throat tickled. I need to cough. Was that a whooping sound? And oh no, my son! I looked down at him. Was he OK? 

Then before I could even raise my concerns to my wife, ever the voice of reason, she said, “Good thing we all have our shots.” 

And with that, all the hives, rash, plagues … that I conjured up in my head went away. We were all going to be OK. 

Unfortunately, that’s not the case with every kid. I remembered writing a story about an outbreak of pertussis last year all because kids had not been getting vaccinated. Did you know half of teens between 13 and 17 years of age have not been vaccinated against pertussis? That’s a disease that can be fatal to infants, and yet preventable with vaccinations. 

If you aren’t vaccinated, whooping cough can be pretty scary stuff. But, now I have something new to fear – measles. Especially with a planned trip to Disney World in September. 

Measles apparently came to Texas via a stop in Orlando in the last month. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) announced that it is investigating seven cases of measles in American babies who traveled overseas and caught the disease. The report states that none of the children received the MMR vaccine for measles, mumps and rubella. 

Young children are at the highest risk of complications or even death from measles. But again I hear my wife’s voice telling me to calm down and breathe into a bag. We have our shots for that too. 

Because of the high risk associated with measles complications in infants, the CDC say children ages 6 to 11 months should receive one dose of measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) before traveling internationally and children 12 months or older should receive two doses, separated by at least 28 days. 

By now, you probably know all the reasons why parents decide to not get their child vaccinated. The good old World Wide Web offers tons of information on the pros and cons of getting your shots. Heck, you are on it right now. But it’s up to you to believe what you are going to believe, and find reputable sources to help guide you. 

As a parent of a child I truly love more than anything, here’s what I ask from you non vaccinaters … Could you stay away from Disney World in September? Please. The decision you make may impact the health of my child or many other children. Same holds true for a classroom or church. It’s up to you. 

The source of the new measles cases in Texas is not entirely clear. Donald Murphey, M.D., predicts that there was exposure to someone who was ill when they visited Orlando, Florida. 

As Cook Children’s medical director of Infectious Disease, Dr. Murphey is a big proponent of vaccinations: 

“Here in the U.S., when we see measles, we often see this in children returning from travel to Europe, or exposed to other persons who have recently returned,” Dr. Murphey said. “Measles is also common in the developing world where there is not good access to immunization. Measles is contagious for a more prolonged period compared to most viral infections. There are families in Europe who are worried about vaccine safety and are not immunizing their children. This has lead to increasing numbers of measles and other vaccine preventable diseases in Europe. The CDC is also looking at another cluster in the U.S. that arose from infection acquired in Somalia in the last year. This is a risk to us when we travel. It makes it very important to immunize kids who are travelling overseas.” 

Dr. Murphey says to talk to your pediatrician before traveling and offers the following bit of advice: 

  • Infants from 6-12 months who are traveling internationally would benefit from measles protection with a dose of MMR.
  • Kids more than 12 months would also benefit from two doses of MMR 28 days apart if they are traveling internationally.
  • This use of MMR is over and above that required here, but is justified by repeated events of transmission of measles from persons in the developing world and in Europe to U.S. travelers.

And then before you travel, you too can say, “Good thing we all have our shots.” 

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Jeff Calaway Jeff Calaway is the Information and Publications Specialist at Cook Children’s and a contributing writer to this Web site. Jeff is a husband and father. He loves running and Bruce Springsteen, although not necessarily in that order.