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Measles infections and symptoms pose far more longterm risks than most realize

By 37ci3 Feb18,2024


Erica Finkelstein-Parker planned her daughter’s 8th birthday party with love.

Because Emmalee adores airplanes, Finkelstein-Parker chose the theme “Flying High with Emmalee.” Finkelstein-Parker filled nearly two dozen brightly colored goody bags for Emmalee’s friends — one for each child in her class, so no one felt left out.

Months later, bags of unopened goodies were left in Finkelstein-Parker’s bedroom, a reminder of the birthday party that never happened.

Emmalee, who developed a a rare complication of measles who could strike years after the infection, spent his 8th year in hospice care at his family’s home. Her parents adopted Emmaline from an orphanage in India when she was 2 ½ years old. The orphanage staff did not tell her that she had measles.

Emmalee Madeline Snehal Parker.
Emmalee Madeline Snehal Parker. Emmalee was otherwise healthy when she developed a devastating complication after recovering from measles.Erica Finkelstein-Parker

“There are certain things parents should never do,” said Finkelstein-Parker, of Littlestown, Pennsylvania. “I had to call the birthday party and explain that our daughter was dying because we were canceling the party.”

Emmali died on January 2, 2011.

“People think these diseases are ancient history, but they still exist,” Finkelstein-Parker said. “Measles is a hidden virus. It may seem like it cleanses your body, but it may be hiding in your nervous system.”

Massive resurgence of measles around the world – related to the pandemic decrease in immunization and increasing rates of vaccine hesitancy among parents — increases the risk of more serious complications and death, said Dr. James Cherry said.

In the past two months, doctors in the United States have diagnosed dozens of measles cases linked to unvaccinated travelers who arrived at international airports and then exposed others in hospitals and clinics. day care centers. State health departments have reported cases of measles infection California, Georgia, Missouri, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Washington, Ohio, Maryland and Minnesota. There are Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned alerting healthcare providers to be on the lookout for more cases.

Johns Hopkins Health Security Center senior scientist Dr. “It takes one infected traveler to cause an outbreak,” Amesh Adalja said. “It’s coming from people getting off planes.”

Measles is so contagious that even a single case is considered an epidemic. Every measles patient infects 12-18 people on average those without immunity to vaccinations or natural infection. By comparison, each Covid-19 patient infects about two others, said Dr. Paul Offit, director of the Vaccine Education Center at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

“Measles is more contagious than Covid or the flu,” Offit said.

Although two doses of measles vaccine protect 97% of children, the airborne virus spreads so rapidly that 95% of children in a community must be vaccinated to prevent outbreaks. According to the CDC, about 93% of children will have received the measles vaccine in 2022-23.

All states require vaccinations for children in public schools, but more and more families are using exemptions for religious, philosophical or medical reasons. About 3% of students now they are free from vaccination mandates. In 10 states, more than 5% of school children are exempt, making it difficult to prevent outbreaks.

People who refuse to vaccinate their children against measles are taking huge and unnecessary risks, said Dr. Peter Hotez, co-director of the Vaccine Development Center at Texas Children’s Hospital. Measles vaccines has been repeatedly proven to be safe.

Long-term effects of measles

2,000 of every 10,000 children infected with measles will be hospitalized; 1,000 will develop ear infections with the potential for permanent hearing loss; 500 will develop pneumonia; and 10 to 30 will die, Hotez said.

Ariel Loop shocked her 4-month-old son, who received all recommended vaccinations. he got sick with measles After visiting Disneyland in 2015. Babies are vulnerable to measles because they don’t get measles. is regularly vaccinated Against the virus up to 12-15 months.

After her son developed red welts, itchy eyes and a 102-degree fever that wasn’t helped by acetaminophen, Loop took him to the emergency room. Loop, a nurse, was especially concerned about her son because he was born prematurely and suffered a stroke as a child.

Mobius was 4 months old when he came down with measles in 2015 after visiting Disneyland.  Babies are vulnerable because they are not routinely vaccinated against the virus until 12-15 months.
Mobius was 4 months old when he came down with measles in 2015 after visiting Disneyland. Babies are vulnerable because they are not routinely vaccinated against the virus until 12-15 months.Ariel Loop

“He was my first baby, and I didn’t know how dangerous measles was,” said Loop, who lives in Pasadena, Calif.

Patricia Stinchfield, president of the National Endowment for Infectious Diseases, said that measles often leaves patients susceptible to secondary bacterial infections, such as pneumonia, which is one of the most common causes of death in measles patients.

Measles also causes “immune amnesia,” in which the immune system loses its ability to fight infections to which the patient was previously immune, Cherry said. Virus Removes from 11% to 73% A person’s antibodies—those acquired through both infection and vaccination—can put patients at increased risk for viruses such as the flu and bacteria that cause pneumonia and skin infections.

Early signs of measles

In addition to the famous red patches on the skin, measles usually causes white patches in the mouth, which can make it painful for children to eat or drink, Stinchfield said. Many children with measles become dehydrated and malnourished during the illness.

About 20% of measles patients they are hospitalizedsaid they often need intravenous fluids.

“These kids come in hanging on their parents’ shoulders and can barely hold their heads up,” Stinchfield said. “They’re like little rag dolls. They won’t take any ice cream either.”

In the days before the measles rash develops in children, symptoms include:

  • Cough
  • Lethargy
  • Runny nose
  • Pink eye
  • Temperature

Many people are so sensitive to light that ordinary room lights hurt their eyes.

“It might look like a cold, except for the extent of their misery,” Offit said.

Stinchfield said people with measles can spread the virus for up to nine days — four days after the spots develop.

Since the virus is spread through aerosols, it can infect people two hours after a sick person leaves the room.

A fatal long-term complication

Finkelstein-Parker said that while Emmalee had always been small for her size — weighing in at 39 pounds — she was otherwise healthy.

Finkelstein-Parker said the first signs of serious illness occurred when Emmalee was 7 years old and began to collapse on her feet. At first, her mother said she wondered if Emmaline’s new shoes were too big. The next day, Emmaline’s jaw dropped to her chest, as if she couldn’t lift her head. While sitting in the chair, Emmalee shifted to one side without enough muscle control to stay upright.

A pediatrician at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia who had trained in India was quick to recognize early signs of the devastating long-term complications of measles. subacute sclerosing panencephalitismore common in countries where the virus remains endemic. The fatal condition can cause memory loss, nervousness, movement disorders, seizures and blindness. can develop from six to eight years of age after the child has recovered from measles. Although anti-seizure medications sometimes relieve symptoms, they do not cure the disease.

End research shows complication occurs more often than previously thought, About 1 in 600 is noteworthy babies with measles.

Emmalee started having uncontrollable seizures. Four months later, Finkelstein-Parker fell into a coma while Emmalee was at home.

“My dad couldn’t understand why he wouldn’t wake up,” Finkelstein-Parker said. “He tried everything, including playing music from his favorite jukebox.”

Emmalee spent five weeks in home hospice and died five months after symptoms began, Finkelstein-Parker said.

After Emmalee died, Finkelstein-Parker took the beautiful bags to school as gifts for her daughter’s classmates. Grieving children shared their favorite stories about Emmalee and made a hanging mobile decorated with drawings and notes.

“Their teacher said they needed closure,” Finkelstein-Parker said. “They handled it better than I did that day.”



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