New research finds that a measles complication could be deadly for children
Scientists say subacute sclerosing panencephalitis, or SSPE, is a progressive neurodegenerative disease “and is 100 per cent fatal”.
It was once believed the risk of developing SSPE was just one in 100,000, but recent research identified a rate as low as 1 in 1,700 in Germany infected with measles before they were five years old
Professor James Cherry, of the University of California, Los Angeles, said: “This is really alarming and shows vaccination truly is life saving.
“Measles is a disease that could be eliminated worldwide, but that means vaccinating at least 95 percent of all who are eligible with two doses of measles vaccine in order to protect everyone, including those who aren’t old enough to get the vaccine.“
The complication can cause brain damage in children
This is really alarming and shows vaccination truly is life saving.
Infants younger than 12 months, who are too young to receive MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine, can get infected with measles and later develop SSPE, which may lay dormant for years.
The study of California children who got measles while living in the United States found one in 1,387 who got it before the age of five and one in 609 younger than 12 months developed SSPE.
Many of these patients had ongoing cognitive or movement problems before they were definitively diagnosed.
There are renewed calls for parents to be revaccinated against the disease
Measles infection causes fever, runny nose, cough, red eyes, sore throat and rash. The virus spreads throughout the body and is cleared within a couple of weeks.
In rare cases the virus spreads to the brain, but then becomes dormant. Eventually it can lead to SSPE, resulting in deterioration and death. Researchers do not know what causes the virus to reactivate.
The MMR vaccine is not recommended until infants are 12 months old because they retain some of their mother’s antibodies until that age, making the vaccine less effective, but leaving them vulnerable to measles.
Others who can’t get vaccinated include those with immune system disorders.
The first dose of MMR is given between 12 and 15 months old. Because there is a 5 percent vaccination failure rate, a second dose is given to children before they begin school.
The study found that one in 600 for those who get measles as infants before being vaccinated
Therefore, all who are eligible – including adults who had not previously been vaccinated – should receive two doses of the vaccine.
Nearly 92 per cent of US. children 19-35 months old have received the MMR vaccine.
NHS figures show in 2014-15, 92.3% of children had the jab.
Prof Cherry added: “Parents of infants who have not yet been vaccinated should avoid putting their children at risk.
“For example, they should postpone trips overseas – including to Europe – where measles is endemic and epidemic until after their baby has been vaccinated with two doses. It’s just not worth the risk.”