Don't put your child or others at risk for measles, pediatrician campaign urges

  • Measles cases are spiking in the United States, and suburban pediatricians are urging parents with kids who aren't immunized to schedule vaccinations. In this March 27 photo, signs advertising free measles vaccines are displayed in Pomona, New York.

    Measles cases are spiking in the United States, and suburban pediatricians are urging parents with kids who aren't immunized to schedule vaccinations. In this March 27 photo, signs advertising free measles vaccines are displayed in Pomona, New York. Associated Press

 
 
Updated 4/10/2019 6:17 AM

Suburban parents who chose not to vaccinate their children against measles will be hearing from pediatricians in the coming days urging them to reconsider.

By scheduling the MMR vaccine for mumps, measles and rubella, "I think they might be saving their kids' lives and saving other kids' lives as well," pediatrician Michael Caplan said Tuesday. He is co-chief medical officer for Advocate Northshore Pediatric Partnership, which is sending hundreds of letters to parents of children the health organization thinks might not have been immunized.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"There is an outbreak of measles across the United States, the worst one in at least 25 years," Caplan wrote to parents.

The number of measles cases in the U.S. as of April 4 is 465 -- surpassing the 372 total in 2018, federal officials said. Illinois has had seven cases this year, surpassed in recent years only by 2015, when 17 cases were centered around a Palatine day-care center.

The letter warns that children who are not immunized are at high risk of contracting measles or passing the disease to other kids, particularly those too young to be vaccinated or with compromised immune systems.

"There is no treatment for the measles. Once your child has early symptoms like a bad cough, high fever, rash or pink eye, it is too late to intervene," Caplan wrote.

The letter campaign by Northshore and Advocate is "unprecedented" and comes because the "mini-epidemic is getting out of hand," said Caplan, Northshore University HealthSystem Department of Pediatrics chairman.

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Public school districts require children to receive vaccinations, although exemptions are accepted for medical or religious reasons.

Because of "misinformation about vaccines by the anti-vaccination movement," many parents are picking and choosing which vaccines they want their children to receive, Caplan said, adding years of research have shown the measles vaccine to be safe and effective.

"It's pretty clear that measles is on the rise," he noted. "This is not an eradicated disease. It can cause serious harm and death."

Hospitals in both health systems include Advocate Good Shepherd in Barrington, Advocate Good Samaritan in Downers Grove, Advocate Condell Medical Center in Libertyville and Glenbrook Hospital in Glenview.

New York City declared a public health emergency Tuesday over a measles outbreak centered in an ultraorthodox Jewish community and ordered mandatory vaccinations in the neighborhood.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the unusual order amid what he said was a measles crisis in Brooklyn's Williamsburg section, where more than 250 people have gotten measles since September.

The order applies to anyone living, working or going to school in four ZIP codes in the neighborhood and requires all unvaccinated people at risk of exposure to the virus to get the vaccine, including children older than 6 month.

The city can't physically force someone to get a vaccination, but officials said people who ignore the order could be fined $1,000. The city said it would help everyone covered by the order get the vaccine if they can't get it quickly through their regular medical provider.

• The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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