Measles concerns on the rise

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SARASOTA, Fla. -- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has released data that reveals a dramatic rise in measles outbreaks in the U.S., and the worry about it is growing.

There is concern on the Suncoast as 13 outbreaks and 129 cases of measles are reported so far this year. And even those who think they are immune may be vulnerable because of what some say is a growing trend.

“It was pure hell, for six weeks, and you can't do anything about it.” Socrates Birsky caught measles from his young student when he was in his early thirties. “It was terrible, painful as all hell.”

Lee Escalara also suffered with measles when she was only three, but she remembers it to this day. “It was miserable; I had itchy red bumps all over me, and I had to stay in bed a couple of days to keep away from other people and I just itched, itched, itched.”

Now the CDC reports the highest level of measles cases in nearly twenty years.

“Well, I think that the outbreak are mainly of a concern for people that have never been vaccinated against measles, especially children.” Dr. Vilma Vega of Infectious Disease Associates in Sarasota says another group is also at risk. “Any adults that may have been under-vaccinated, or may not have mounted a response to the measles vaccine when they were kids.”

Complications resulting from measles include pneumonia, ear infections, and in rare cases, encephalitis, says Michael Drennon of the Sarasota County Department of Health. “I think we should always be concerned and diligent, especially on the Suncoast where we have a lot of people who travel outside the country.”

Although locally-acquired cases in the U.S. are still uncommon, Drennon says this is one way measles may find their way here from abroad. “Get exposed and bring it back and expose it to someone here who is either under-vaccinated, or not vaccinated.”

And the trend to now vaccinate may be the culprit of this latest rise in this highly infectious communicable disease. “Because the majority of the cases that have now happened during this last outbreak of a hundred and twenty nine people in the United States have happened in children, cases of parents never vaccinated their children due to a variety of their own personal concerns.”

Some things to watch out for if you think you have measles include fever, runny nose, cough, loss of appetite, "pink eye," and a rash usually lasting 5-6 days. There is less concern if you were born before 1957 because most been exposed to the disease. Those born after 1957 may want to check with your doctor to see if you need a booster.