N.J. doctors weigh in on measles outbreak, vaccine issue

N.J. doctors weigh in on measles outbreak, vaccine issue

By Kelly Roncace, South Jersey Times

More than 100 cases of measles have been reported across 14 states so far this year - which is just a little more than a month old.

Dr. Jennifer Caudle, board certified family physician and assistant professor at Rowan School of Osteopathic Medicine in Stratford, said measles is a virus that can be easily prevented with the MMR - measles, mumps, rubella - vaccine.

"Measles comes with symptoms such as high fever, cough, red watery eyes, and a characteristic rash that starts at the head and goes down to the feet," Caudle said. "It can lead to pneumonia, encephalitis and brain damage, and even death."

The recent unusual outbreak has alerted area doctors to the dangers of the trend of parents refusing to vaccinate their children.  

"Worldwide, measles is a serious disease that kills millions of kids every year," said Dr. David Condoluci, infectious diseases specialist and Kennedy Health's chief patient safety and quality officer. "We had all but eradicated the disease in the United States through the vaccine program."

However, the recent trend of not vaccinating children has contributed to the outbreak of measles in the country, according to Caudle.

"Those who are not (vaccinating their children) are definitely contributing," she said. "I absolutely do believe that."

Dr. Angela Oates, M.D., infectious disease specialist on staff at The Memorial Hospital of Salem County, agreed that the measles outbreak is mostly due to people not vaccinating their children.

"What started this was, in the 1990s, a physician did a study saying the MMR vaccine was associated with autism," Oates said, referencing the article written by Andrew Wakefield in 1998. "However, they found out it was a bogus study. The journal (it was printed in) retracted the study and the guy lost his license."

Oates said that a statement released by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) said there is no connection between the MMR vaccine and autism.

However, because celebrities have gotten on board the anti-vaccine movement and not vaccinating children has become a trend, more children are being exposed to the virus.

"Those who do not get vaccinated rely on what we call 'herd immunity,'" Condoluci said. "But when you have an outbreak like this, if you don't have immunity, you're susceptible and it spreads very quickly."

Many who don't vaccinate their children say their decision is based on the lack of measles cases in the country.

Caudle said the reason the disease isn't as common as it was many years ago is because of those millions of vaccines given to children each year.

"In 2000, measles was considered an eradicated disease," she said. "We weren't seeing it because we're doing a good job."

Condoluci said the first measles shots were given in 1957, so most people born after that year are immune.

Caudle said those who are unsure if they were vaccinated can have a blood test to find out if they are immune.

"The MMR vaccine is a very helpful, important vaccine to get," she said. "We want to prevent the undo illness and suffering that these patients are getting, potentially, unnecessarily."

Condoluci agreed.

"Our main mission is to keep the public safe," Condoluci said.

 

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Date Published: Thursday, February 5, 2015 - 15:30
Source URL: N.J. doctors weigh in on measles outbreak, vaccine issue