Q. If my child has been vaccinated against measles, do I need to worry about reports that the past five months have seen more measles cases in the United States than in any entire year in at least the past decade?
A. Parents can rest assured that fully vaccinated children almost certainly won't contract the disease during an outbreak, says Dr. Sunil Sood, chairman of pediatrics at Southside Hospital in Bay Shore and attending physician in infectious diseases at Cohen Children's Medical Center in New Hyde Park.
Usually a child is inoculated at 12 months and receives a second dose between ages 4 and 6. Those two doses protect for life, Sood says. "No vaccine is 100 percent protective, but if you've had two doses, almost no one will get the measles," he says. And if a vaccinated child did contract measles, it would be a much milder case, he says.
The susceptible childhood population is babies younger than 12 months, and children whose parents have chosen not to immunize them, Sood says. "It is a very dangerous infection to get," Sood says. "It can produce pneumonia, it can produce encephalitis in the brain." It rarely causes death in the United States because of the health care available here, he says.
There is a possible serious late side effect, Sood adds. In rare cases, a child who had measles can years later develop a type of encephalitis known as subacute sclerosing panencephalitis, or SSPE, which can cause seizures and bizarre behavior.