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Are Black Children at Greater Measles Risk?

In light of a nation that has newly expanded its health care law promising to improve the quality of health care, expand accesses and decrease prices – are our Black children still at risk for getting measles? Unfortunately even with the new health care law, many African American families have fallen through the cracks still unable to afford health insurance and/or are living in states where Medicaid expansion did not occur. These are key elements when it comes to getting our black youth immunized so they are protected from communicable diseases such as the measles. With many African American families still without health insurance and still with historical distrust of Western medicine, our youth have high rates of not being immunized leaving them unprotected from the emerging measles outbreak.

2015 Measles Outbreak

The 2015 measles outbreak already has spread to over 84 people, more than health officials typically see in an entire year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Thursday.

Most of the cases are traceable to an outbreak at Disneyland and another theme park in Southern California that began in late December and now has spread to six other states, including Utah, Washington, Oregon and Colorado. In all, measles has reached 14 states, according the Center of Disease Control’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases.

The outbreak has generated fierce criticism of people who, choose not to have their children immunized and has prompted at least two school systems in California to ban unvaccinated students from school.

In recent years there have been a growing number of parents who have skipped their children’s vaccines because of personal reasons; they mistrust the vaccine and a discredited belief that vaccines are linked to autism. This has led to pockets of unvaccinated children. To prevent measles from becoming an endemic, parents are urged to get the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine for their children and themselves. The two-dose regimen is 97 percent effective and has been proven safe despite unproven concerns that it can lead to autism.

All states grant medical exemptions to vaccinations. Forty-eight states grant religious exemptions and 19 allow philosophical exemptions — only Mississippi and West Virginia allow neither.

What are the Measles?

Measles,  a condition which is caused by a virus, is highly contagious. The respiratory illness is airborne, spread from person to person by coughing and sneezing. It is so infectious that an unvaccinated person can contract it by inhaling the virus hours after a person with the disease has left a room.

It can lead to potentially serious complications, including pneumonia, brain damage and deafness. About 15 percent of the people infected in the current outbreak required hospitalization, according to the CDC.

The United States declared measles eliminated in 2000, but it has been resurgent in recent years, fueled by huge epidemics in other countries that were imported into the United States by travelers and spread mostly among unvaccinated people

Does my child need this vaccine?

Children should get 2 doses of MMR vaccine. The first dose should be administered between 12 and 15 months of age. The second dose should be given between 4 -6 years of age. These are the recommended ages but children can get the second dose at any age, as long as it is at least 28 days after the first dose.

Before any international travel, infants 6 months through 11 months of age should have at least one dose of MMR vaccine. Children 12 months of age or older should have two doses separated by at least 28 days. For additional details, consult the MMR Vaccine Information Statement and the Childhood Immunization Schedule.

Nurse Alice Benjamin

Nurse Alice Benjamin is a nationally board certified Cardiac Clinical Nurse at world renowned Cedar-Sinai Medical Center in West Hollywood, California with over 15 years of experience. She is an American Heart Association spokesperson and  first African-American nurse elected to the American Nurses Association/California Board of Directors. Benjamin is also a freelance on-air health expert and writer  who has written for JETMAG.com, Rolling Out and FOX News online and hosts “Healthy Living with Nurse Alice” on Thursdays 9:25am ET on WENO 760AM. She has appeared on various national radio shows and TV shows including “Tom Joyner Morning Show”, “The Doctors” and HLN’s “News Now” and more. You can follow her on Twitter at @AskNurseAlice