Measles outbreak has local parents concerned

Pediatricians report increased number of calls from concerned parents


ORLANDO, Fla. – The latest Centers for Disease Control and Prevention figures say more than 100 people from 17 states have contracted measles associated with the outbreak that started in California.

As the disease gets nationwide attention, many parents have questions and concerns about their kid's safety.

[LIVE CHAT: Ask your measles, vaccination questions | WEB EXTRA: Top questions parents ask about measles ]

Michelle Menard thought she was doing the right thing when she decided to delay the vaccination schedule for her two children.

When news of the current epidemic broke, she reconsidered.

"I think we were doing what we thought was best for our kids and we were lucky that there weren't any problems. They weren't exposed to anything."

Michelle's story is not unique. Pediatricians across Central Florida are reporting an increased number of calls from parents who have questions.

Dr. Alix Casler, medical director of Pediatrics for Physician Associates, says it's a great time to ask questions.

"I think it gives us the opportunity to raise public awareness," she says. "Vaccines are their own worst enemy. In other words they work so well to prevent disease that many people are no longer familiar with the disease that we're preventing."

She says that lack of familiarity can contribute to some parents deciding not to  vaccinate their children or to delay the schedule which she doesn't recommend.

"I think people choose not to immunize their children for a complex set of reasons. For the most part its really based on disinformation," she continues. The Internet is an amazing resource. It has become the place to go to for information. The problem is that just because someone says it, doesn't mean it's true."

Casler is passionate about immunization. "I think it's the most valuable thing we do as pediatricians," she says.

We asked her to answer some of the most common questions she gets.

She says first and foremost the vaccines are safe. "The measles vaccine or MMR, because in the United States it's the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine all together in one, is safe," she says. "The MMR vaccine does not cause autism; that's very simple."

She says parents often wonder at what age their kids can get vaccinated. The answer, between 12 and 15 months old, with a second dose at between 4 and 6 years old.

The vaccine can have mild side effects, including a rash.

She says you can't get measles from the vaccine.

Casler says she has even gotten calls from parents wondering if their child has contracted the disease. She says the symptoms are unique.

"Many parents say oh my gosh my child has a fever of 104. Could it be measles? Measles is a very impressive illness," she says. "It presents with a very very high fever. Generally 104-105 fever. Horrible nasal congestion, very blood shot eyes. Very very sick looking child." 

She says the rash presents a couple of days after the fever starts. "It's very impressive red, flat, blotchy rash that starts at the head and works it's way down the body. These children are sick."

Many parents ask about themselves. Casler says most adults who were immunized as children are immune and a booster shot is not recommended. 

If you are unsure of your immunization status or feel you have a special case, consult your physician.

If you have questions of your own, log onto ClickOrlando.com Wednesday between 6 and 7 p.m. to chat with Dr. Casler live.

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