Dr. Deborah Baumann sees a lot of sick children in her role as pediatrician for the Hannibal Regional Medical Group. One thing she doesn’t want to see is a child with measles.
“Measles are still a big problem in the world. In areas where immunization rates fall below 90 percent, there are pockets of kids where this disease could spread very quickly,” she said.
Two elements contribute to her fear that a measles outbreak could occur here.
1) “Americans go overseas and bring it back,” Dr. Baumann said. “People go to other parts of the world; then measles are imported to the U.S. and get spread here. People travel doing mission work, or they can be on a plane ride with someone carrying the virus; you share it before you are even sick or have a rash.”
2) “Some people are more nervous about the vaccine than the bad diseases,” Dr. Baumann said, because they are reliant upon inaccurate information. Rather than reading information out there on the internet, she encourages parents to talk to their pediatrician if they have questions about vaccine safety.
“We could have a conversation. I want people to ask me questions about vaccine safety. When I first started practicing, the internet wasn’t a big issue. People listened to their pediatricians.
“A few weeks ago I tore through CDC information,” she said. What she found was alarming. There were 159 cases of measles reported in the United States between January and August 2013.
“Most U.S. pediatricians are concerned when we see these kinds of trends,” she said. “A lot of young pediatricians have never seen measles, because we’ve done a good job with the vaccine. In 2000, they thought they had irradiated measles in the U.S. But measles are imported to us and get spread here.”
“When it comes to these diseases, their children’s safety, I would hope health care providers would be the primary source of their information.”
Recent outbreaks have been in New York City and Texas, “where pockets of parents do not want to immunize their kids. They go to church together, home school together, then if one gets it, many will get it,” she said.
Dr. Baumann said that the measles are accompanied by a really high fever of 106 degrees and ear infections. The high fever can lead to brain damage from encephalitis. “Of every 1,000 children who get measles, one or two will die. It’s nothing to mess with for sure.”
While a lot of younger pediatricians have never seen a case of measles, Dr. Baumann had the measles as a child. “I remember being delirious with fever, seeing little soldiers marching across into the radiator vent.
“Today people think there’s no such thing as measles or polio, but it is a fact that in the other parts of the world it is circulating. Knowledge is power,” she said. “It is heartbreaking and sad; I just want to try to educate everyone I come in contact with.”