Why you shouldn’t RSVP to a ‘measles party’

In California, a parent reportedly invited others to a “measles party” -- a way to intentionally expose unvaccinated children to the virus with the goal of building immunity. Rear Adm. Anne Schuchat of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention joins Judy Woodruff to discuss the status of the recent outbreak and what misinformation about the virus could be harmful.

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    FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg today called the recent measles outbreak in the U.S. alarming and said the vaccine should be used by everyone who has not been vaccinated.

    More than 120 cases have been reported in 17 states and the District of Columbia since December. Hamburg's comments came after other warnings from public health officials in California, where a report by KQED Public Media told the story from Marin County of unvaccinated children being invited to a so-called measles party for intentional exposure. The mother didn't let her children take part.

    But the story underscored anew some of the many questions that have surfaced.

    To help get some clarity, I spoke earlier today with Dr. Anne Schuchat. She's the director of CDC's National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Disease.

    Dr. Schuchat, welcome to the NewsHour.

    There's at least one media report out of California, Marin County, about a mother inviting other parents to bring their children over because the mother's child had the measles. Are you hearing reports like this? What does the CDC know, and what is your recommendation?

    DR. ANNE SCHUCHAT, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: That really scares me. I haven't heard other reports of that.

    Parents really need to know that measles can be serious. Many children just have a mild illness, but it can result in pneumonia, dehydration and even encephalitis or death. I would hate for you to expose your child to the virus and end up with one of those outcomes.

    So, we really strongly want parents to know that the measles vaccine is safe and effective, and it's the best way to protect your child against this disease.


    What are you telling parents in terms of when they should get their children vaccinated?


    We recommend children are vaccinated with two shots in their young years,the first shot at 12 to 15 months, and the second one between the ages of 4 and 6, really before they start kindergarten.

    It's OK to get the second dose earlier, as long as it's 28 days after the first dose. If your kids are traveling overseas or you will be taking them to another country or the middle of an outbreak, we recommend starting the series as young as six months of age because the disease is so dangerous in young children.


    And what about for parents whose children were not vaccinated when they should have been vaccinated?


    If you haven't got your kids vaccinated yet, it's OK. We want you to get them now.

    And we recommend is two doses at least one month apart. As long as they're over 12 months, that's the recommended schedule. Some parents might not know if they ever got vaccinated. If they're going to be traveling abroad, they will need to make sure that they have had at least two doses.

    If they're working in health care settings, they also need to make sure that they have two doses, unless they were born before 1957, in which case they don't need to be vaccinated because chances are they already had measles.


    And for adults who aren't sure if they were vaccinated or don't have access to their own vaccination records, what guidance should they follow?


    The most important thing to know is if you're traveling abroad, measles is still around, and it's important to get vaccinated.

    If you don't have records, there's in harm in getting another MMR vaccine. People don't think of traveling to Europe as risky, but there's measles in Europe. So we want people to know that the MMR vaccine is safe and effective and it's the best way to protect yourself and your family from this disease.


    Is it accurate to say that adults who are around children more may be more vulnerable?


    Well, we don't want adults who are around children spreading the measles to the young kids.

    Most adults are protected from measles. And it's really the health care workers and the international travelers that we make a special effort to make sure have that documented immunity. If you're going to be around young children and you're not sure if you have been vaccinated, it's fine to get another vaccine, but we'd really like the emphasis to be on parents keeping their kids up to date with all the recommended vaccines.


    And, Dr. Schuchat, just finally, for Americans who may not realize the severity of measles, who may just classify it as, oh, it's just another childhood illness, it's not really a big deal, what is the CDC's message to them?


    Before we had the measles vaccine, 400 to 500 children died from measles here in the United States every year.

    Around the world, 150,000 children died from measles last year. This virus can be serious. And we don't know which are the kids that are going to have a severe complication. The measles vaccine is safe and effective. I strongly recommend it.


    Dr. Anne Schuchat, director for the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Disease at the Centers for Disease Control, we thank you.


    Thank you.

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