CHARLESTON, W.Va. — West Virginia is behind the rest of the country when it comes to most vaccinations for their children.
Federal Centers for Disease Control Director of Immunization Dr. Anne Schuchat was in Charleston Tuesday for the 2014 West Virginia Immunization Summit. She said she can’t stress enough how important it is for parents to make sure their kids are protected, especially now that a once dormant disease here in the U.S. has infected hundreds.
“The biggest thing folks in this state need to worry about is measles. Right now, we’re breaking records,” she said. “We’re at a 20-year high with measles. The biggest outbreak is right next door in Ohio.”
There have been 361 reported cases of the measles in Ohio in the past two and a half months. So how did a disease we’d managed to wipe out here in the U.S. make a return appearance?
“There are measles all around the world and there’s a big outbreak in the Philippines with over 30,000 cases. What happened in Ohio is that some individuals went to do mission work, humanitarian assistance in the Philippines but they’d never been vaccinated. They got measles. They brought it back and spread it within their communities,” explained Schuchat.
The concern is that here in West Virginia we have one of the highest unvaccinated populations when it comes to measles.
“Fifteen percent of children in West Virginia are vulnerable to measles. Measles can be serious and is really infectious,” said Schuchat.
According to the Ohio Health Department, the measles are highly contagious. When those infected sneeze or cough, droplets spray into the air and the droplets remain active and contagious on infected surfaces for up to two hours. Infected people are usually contagious from about four days before their rash starts to four days afterwards. An infected person can spread the disease before knowing he or she is infected.
West Virginia, like every other state in the country, requires school age children to have their measles vaccine. Schuchat urged parents to get their children vaccinated well before kindergarten.
“Whenever you’re seeing the doctor or the nurse, ask ‘Is my child up to date? Are there other vaccines my child should be getting,'” stressed Schuchat. “You bring your child in for a cold or flu or something else, just check on the vaccines as well.”
So far there have been no reported outbreaks of measles here in West Virginia.