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Food and Drug Administration stressing importance of vaccination in wake of measles outbreaks

By Tom Latek
Kentucky Today

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is reiterating the importance of vaccinations, such as the MMR vaccine, which protects against measles, mumps and rubella.

According to the FDA, the U.S. continues to experience cases and outbreaks of measles, largely due to unvaccinated or under-vaccinated segments of the population.

The MMR vaccine is being stressed to protect against measles, mumps and rubella. (Kentucky Today file photo)

This year has seen the greatest number of measles cases reported in the U.S. since 1992. Of those diagnosed with measles, approximately 10% have required hospitalization. The majority of cases are among people who were not vaccinated.

The FDA says the MMR vaccine has been approved in the U.S. for nearly 50 years. It is highly effective and very safe. As a result of its use, measles was declared eliminated in the U.S. in 2000, rubella in 2004, and since 1989, mumps cases have decreased by 99%.

“We cannot state strongly enough that overwhelming scientific evidence shows that vaccines are among the most effective and safest interventions, to both prevent individual illness and protect public health,” said Dr. Peter Marks, director of FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research. “It is deeply concerning to see vaccine-preventable infectious diseases such as measles or mumps reemerging in the U.S. and impacting the health of individuals and entire communities.”

All three diseases start with symptoms that may mirror the common cold, but they can cause serious illness, and in some cases, even death.

Measles, a respiratory disease that causes a skin rash, fever, cough and runny nose; can be dangerous, especially for babies and young children who are too young to be vaccinated. It is one of the most contagious diseases and can cause severe complications, including pneumonia, swelling of the brain and death. In fact, one to three people out of every 1,000 who contract measles dies from complications of the disease, even with the best care.

Mumps causes fever, headache, loss of appetite and the well-known sign of swollen cheeks and jaw from the swelling of the salivary glands. Complications, though rare, can include deafness and meningitis (an infection, which can sometimes be deadly, of the lining that surrounds the brain and spinal cord).

Rubella, once a common disease that occurred primarily among young children, causes fever, rash, and (mainly in women) arthritis. Rubella infection during pregnancy can also lead to birth defects.
Marks says he understands parents may have questions about vaccines and urges them to discuss their concerns with their child’s health care provider.

“As a public health agency, we want to reiterate our confidence in the safety and efficacy of the MMR vaccine,” he said. “The FDA always strives to use the best available scientific evidence to promote and protect the well-being of individuals and the public health, and the evidence fully supports the safety and effectiveness of this vaccine.”

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