A UNM pediatrician says that the current measles outbreak - which began at Disneyland and has grown to at least 100 confirmed cases in multiple states – is an important reminder of the importance of childhood vaccinations.

 “With the effective vaccination programs that have occurred during the past decades, the disease’s rarity can make diagnosis problematic," said Randy Knott, M.D., assistant professor in the UNM School of Medicine Department of Pediatrics.

“We depend on the high level of people vaccinated in the state for protection. Part of the challenge is that even though I’ve been in practice for 30 years, I’ve never seen the measles nor have many of my colleagues,” he said.

The American Association of Pediatrics, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Academy of Family Physicians all recommend children receive the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine at age 12-15 months, and again at 4-6 years. High immunization rates in a community will protect those who cannot be vaccinated, including infants under 12 months of age. These infants are at the highest risk of serious illness, hospitalization and death due to measles.

With vaccination, the measles is almost 100 percent preventable.  Without that protection, the disease is one of the most highly contagious respiratory diseases on the planet.  It spreads easily through the air or on infected surfaces, causing rash, high fever, cough, runny nose and red watery eyes.  People with the disease can spread the virus up to four days before they develop symptoms. In rare cases it can cause encephalitis. There are one-two deaths for every 1,000 measles cases, according to American Association of Pediatrics statistics.