Doctor: No need to panic over measles, but not vaccinating puts others at risk

ALBANY, N.Y. — In 2000, the United States declared that measles had been eliminated from the United States, but in 2014 a record number of cases were reported.

A local doctor tells NEWS10 the Capital Region does not need to panic, but he does believe that people who choose not to vaccinate their children are putting others at risk, despite those parents believing that the measles vaccine can be harmful.

As measles cases continue to be reported in the United States, the debate on whether or not to vaccinate children has picked up speed. Highly contagious, the virus lives in the nose and throat mucus of an infected person. It can spread by coughing and sneezing. The virus can live for up to two hours on a surface or airspace where an infected person coughed or sneezed.

Infected people can spread measles to others from four days before to four days after the rash appears.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2014, 644 cases of measles in 27 states were reported.

In 2015 alone, 102 measles cases from 14 states have been reported to the CDC.

A recent outbreak traced to Disneyland in California and a Dutchess County student who traveled through the Capital Region with the disease has raised local concern.

Pediatrician Dr. James Saperstone agrees with CDC officials who have stated they believe unvaccinated people are part of the problem.

But parents like Mike Smith with the Foundation for Autism Information and Research believe the measles vaccine can be harmful.

“This is an issue of personal choice. Personal freedoms. Medial rights. Parental rights,” said Smith.

“It’s just not fair to make that decision for your children not to be vaccinated and understand what you’re doing to everyone else’s children or sick people,” said Dr. Saperstone.

The doctor says he does not believe the Capital Region will see a large outbreak, because New York State is stricter on vaccinations before children enter school.

In 2010, measles was declared “eliminated” from the United States, due to vaccines. According to the CDC, measles continues to spread when unvaccinated travelers spread the virus to others who are “not protected against measles, which sometimes leads to outbreaks.”

Only about three out of 100 people who have received two doses of the vaccine will still get measles if exposed to the virus.

Before the vaccine program began in 1963, the CDC estimates about 3 to 4 million people had measles each year in the U.S. Of those people, 400 to 500 died, 48,000 were hospitalized, and 4,000 developed brain swelling.

For more on the history of measles from the CDC, click here.

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