This blog post is part of the Google+ Healthy Hangouts series on breaking and timely health news.
Why are diseases like pertussis (whooping cough) and measles making a comeback? Many in North Texas have been surprised to find out that right here in the Metroplex we have seen a huge outbreak of these two diseases with whooping cough reaching epidemic levels.
In fact, experts say this may be the worst outbreak of measles they have seen in 17 years.
Starting last week, three of the physicians on our medical staff participated in Baylor Health Care System’s very first Google+ Hangout series featuring David Winter, M.D., Cherese Wiley, M.D., and Roger Khetan, M.D., all internal medicine physicians on the medical staff at Baylor University Medical Center at Dallas.
They’ll be broadcasting live from Google+ a couple of times a month to discuss the latest health news and how it impacts you and your family.
Last week, the discussion was centered around whooping cough and measles (you can watch a video of the discussion below).
To summarize the discussion, these are the most important things you need to know about these outbreaks:
1. Whooping cough never really went away.
We see it in waves every three to five years, according to Dr. Wiley.
2. The biggest reason for both the measles and whooping cough outbreaks this year may be due to parents not vaccinating their children.
Why are some parents foregoing vaccinations? According to the physicians, there is still a lingering fear that vaccines may contribute to autism even though the initial study that claimed this link has been retracted.
3. With regard to whooping cough, vaccines among children are extremely important.
The highest risk of mortality is highest in this age group. Also, most adults are surprised that they need to be vaccinated as well. Medicare may not pay for the whooping cough vaccine; however, before any grandparents visit their grandchildren, they should get the pertussis vaccine themselves to help protect the young children in their family.
4. The whooping cough vaccine is safe, but like many vaccines it may contribute to minor side effects like soreness at the injection site and a low-grade fever.
There are no long-term developmental side effects from this vaccine, according to Dr. Khetan. Whooping cough is a very deadly disease and spreads very rapidly so vaccination is vital to stopping the spread.
5. Pregnant women are advised to get the whooping cough vaccine in the third trimester of pregnancy–with every pregnancy.
However, pregnant women should not get the MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccine to prevent measles as it is a live vaccine and may cause complications. In fact, all adults are advised to get the whooping cough vaccine as well, especially if it has been more than 10 years since the last vaccination. All adults need to get the vaccine at least two weeks before a visit to see their grandchildren, for example because it takes that long for the immunity to build up.
6. In addition to getting the whooping cough vaccine, you can prevent the spread of this disease
By wearing a mask (if you have been diagnosed) or cough into your arm instead of your hands, you can prevent the spread of the disease. Frequent and proper handwashing is also recommended.
7. Measles is also on the rise for the same reasons
Parents are leery about vaccinating their children because of the false data that was reported 12 years ago linking vaccines to autism.
8. The measles vaccine is safe.
One of the reasons it may be spreading so rapidly is because we are a global community, according to Dr. Khetan. Measles can be endemic in other parts of the world and if you travel to other countries and are not vaccinated, you could be at risk.
9. Measles symptoms start off slowly
Measles starts with a cough and fever and eventually develop into a rash, possibly in the mouth and face and will gradually progress to the rest of the body. Complications include brain damage and inflammation as well as pneumonia.
10. Adults should also be vaccinated against measles.
Adults can have their immunity checked with a simple blood test to see if their immunity has worn off from prior vaccines when they were children.
To watch the Google+ Hangout, just click on the video below. If you have any questions for our panel of physicians or would like to suggest a future discussion topic for the Hangout series, you can submit your ideas in the comments section below.