Vaccines have virtually eliminated many diseases that once routinely threatened infants and children in the United States, but these viruses and bacteria are still prevalent around the world. During National Infant Immunization Week and World Immunization Week, parents are encouraged to make sure their children are up-to-date on their vaccines. As an analysis of 2011 measles cases by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention illustrated, children in the U.S. are at risk of vaccine-preventable diseases brought to the U.S. by travelers: Out of the 222 cases of measles in 2011 (the highest number of cases in 15 years), 200 were linked to unimmunized travelers who picked up the measles virus abroad. The majority of measles cases were in people younger than 20.
Parents should talk with their child’s pediatrician if they are traveling outside of the country – including Europe, which has experienced a spike in measles cases. In many cases, children can get an early dose of measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine to protect them. The vaccine is recommended for all children at ages 12-15 months, and at 4-6 years.
Health care providers play a significant role in preventing the spread of measles. Providers should be aware of the symptoms of measles, particularly among those who have recently traveled abroad or who have had contact with travelers.
“Measles is incredibly contagious, and parents need to be aware of the risks of allowing their child to go unimmunized. You never know when your child may come near someone who is infected,” said AAP President Robert W. Block, MD, FAAP. Dr. Block has a video message for parents on the importance of immunizations in the Press Room Media Center. “We want to protect all children so they have the best chance of growing up to be strong, healthy adults.”
The AAP has assembled resources on measles for parents and pediatricians below.
Resources for Pediatricians:
AAP Red Book section on prevention and treatment of measles
Measles, Mumps, Rubella Vaccine (Member log-in required)
Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report: Measles 2011
Resources for Parents:
Measles, Mumps, Rubella Vaccine: What You Need to Know
Healthy Children Radio interview on recent measles outbreaks
The American Academy of Pediatrics is an organization of 60,000 primary care pediatricians, pediatric medical subspecialists and pediatric surgical specialists dedicated to the health, safety and well-being of infants, children, adolescents and young adults. For more information, visit www.aap.org.