Triangle doctor explains measles outbreak in US

Health Alert

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Measles continues to spread throughout the United States. More than 700 cases have been reported this year. There have been no reports of measles in North Carolina, but this is the most cases seen in the United States in 25 years. 

Measles vaccines are not just for kids. The Centers for Disease Control said some adults may need to get vaccinated, too.

“Measles, historically, was a deadly, wildly contagious disease,” said Dr. Graham Snyder. He is the Medical Director for the Center of Innovative Learning at WakeMed and an ER physician. “It is one of the most contagious diseases on earth.”

Snyder said that before vaccines existed, a measles outbreak would kill about 2 to 3 million people every year worldwide. He said 110,000 people died from measles last year.

“Which is a great improvement, but unfortunately certainly not to zero,” Snyder said.

Those who have already had the measles booster may need it again. The CDC said those who received a measles vaccine prior to 1968 probably need to be re-vaccinated.  

“When it’s just a few people, it doesn’t have a big impact, but when the numbers get higher and higher and higher, then eventually you’re playing with fire,” Snyder explained.

Snyder believes there are two reasons U.S. measles cases have climbed so high in recent years: more people are traveling and more parents are turning against vaccines.

“Skipping a vaccination is like running through a stop sign,” Snyder said. “Most of the time you’ll get away with it, you’ll be safe. Most of the time. But eventually, you’ll get unlucky, and that’s when the mortality rises.”

Snyder says if you aren’t sure if you’ve had the vaccine, it won’t hurt to get re-vaccinated. 

There have been no reported cases of measles in North Carolina this year, but 22 states have been affected.

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