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Measles Outbreaks 2017: What You Can Do When Your Baby’s Too Young To Be Vaccinated

Measles Outbreaks 2017: What You Can Do When Your Baby’s Too Young To Be Vaccinated

2017 has seen sweeping measles outbreaks in parts of Europe – which can be scary when your baby is still too young to be vaccinated. Find out what you can do to protect your baby from measles.

While most children who contract measles recover without problems, it is a serious business – 20% of measles cases lead to complications, including deafness, pneumonia, even death. The virus is 600% more contagious than flu, and babies are at greater risk of developing complications if they contract it1.

Public health officials have warned that due to the popularity of travel in our interconnected world, no person or country is out of the reach of this highly infectious virus. In fact, in the year 2016-2017 alone, the UK reported 575 measles infections2.

Recent figures show that MMR vaccination uptake rates (92.3% across England in 2014-15) come in below the World Health Organisation’s target of ‘95% coverage’ to protect against outbreaks3. Dr Tim Davies, director of screening and immunisation for NHS England, commented: “Children who are vaccinated are very likely to be protected…The more important issue is for children who can’t be vaccinated because they’re too young. For example, you might get children under one contracting measles and you don’t want that.”4

So, if you’re a mum whose baby isn’t old enough to be immunised yet, what can you do? Here are 6 handy tips to help keep your little one safe:

1) Know The Early Symptoms

Measles is most famous for its rash of red, bumpy spots. Don’t rely on this as a marker for people to avoid though – measles carriers are contagious from around four days before the rash appears. Knowing the general early symptoms will at least enable you to make a judgment call as to whether to visit sweet cousin Josie who hasn’t been vaccinated for example. Early symptoms include:

  • A fever of approx. 38℃
  • A cough
  • Runny nose
  • Red eyes that are sore and swollen
  • Little white spots inside the mouth

2) Don’t Take ‘Newborn Immunity’ For Granted

If your baby is less than six months of age and you have had the measles virus in the past, your little one shouldn’t need any treatment because your own antibodies will have been passed through to her in pregnancy. This should give measles immunity for her first six months.

Babies under six months whose mothers haven’t had measles before won’t be sufficiently protected, even if mum has had her measles vaccinations in the past. In these instances your little one can be given an injection of human normal immunoglobulin (HNIG). This is a concentration of antibodies that can offer immediate, short-term defence against measles, say in cases where your child has been exposed to measles or there is a measles outbreak in your area.

3) Ensure Family And Caregivers Are Vaccinated

If your baby is too young to be vaccinated, a key way to protect her is to make sure those around her have had their jabs. This is known as ‘herd immunity’. Siblings, parents and grandparents etc. who have not had their MMR should be vaccinated.

If you were immunised with two injections as a child or as an adult, then you’re set, but if for any reason you can’t confirm your injections, then there’s no harm in having a booster shot. Any of your little one’s school-age siblings who have not had their MMR can ‘catch up’ with two jabs with a space between each of at least four weeks. What’s more, anyone can still have a vaccination within three days of exposure to measles.

4) Be Careful Where You Bring Your Little One

Before your baby is old enough to have her jabs, it’s best to avoid taking her to countries with low immunisation rates. When planning a holiday, it may also be wise to research any recent measles outbreaks, including in Europe.

In an interconnected world though, ‘herd immunity’ can never be considered cast-iron. In very crowded places, particularly those which might attract many international visitors such as tourist sites, airports, and malls, you may be more likely to find measles. In areas with lower vaccination rates, such as London5, you may wish to weigh it up before taking your infant to kids’ parties and the like.

If your baby attends nursery, you may wish to ask staff if there are any unvaccinated children attending. Nurseries don’t exclude unvaccinated kids or tell parents about the vaccination status of individual children, but they can let parents know if there are any kids attending who haven’t had their jabs6. This enables parents to weigh things up if there’s a measles outbreak for example.

5) Know How Measles Spreads

Measles stems from the rubeola virus. When a person who has the virus coughs or sneezes, little, minute drops carrying this virus hit the air. These droplets remain active for two hours on a surface and even in the air. If your infant comes into contact with these droplets, she can catch the virus. She can also get infected from coming into contact with the skin of someone with the virus. In fact having face to face contact with a measles carrier, or being in the same room as them for quarter of an hour or more, can expose your little one to the virus.

If your infant hasn’t been vaccinated or had measles in the past, unfortunately the risk of infection after exposure to measles is high – 9 out of 10 kids get measles in such a situation.

However after catching measles, it can actually take around 10 days for any symptoms to appear. With that in mind, if you become aware that your infant has had exposure to the measles virus, you can take her straight to a doctor for treatment to prevent the development of it. You should see a doctor within three days of exposure.

6) If There’s An Outbreak Or You Discover Your Baby Has Been Exposed To Measles, Seek Treatment

Thank goodness, there are things you can do if your infant hasn’t had her MMR jab yet but has been exposed to measles, or if there is an outbreak near you. What steps to take depend a lot on your baby’s age, and whether mum has measles immunity.

As we explained above, if you’re a mum who’s had measles in the past and your infant is under six months old, the immunity passed through to her in the womb should protect her.

Kids under the age of six months whose mums haven’t had the measles virus before are not sufficiently protected, even if mum had her MMR jabs in the past. If this is you, baby can have an injection of human normal immunoglobulin (HNIG). These antibodies give short-term, immediate protection against measles.

If your baby is between 6-12 months old and has had exposure to measles, she can be given a dose of the MMR vaccine earlier than the usual 13 months. This should also be the case if your local area suffers a measles outbreak. In most babies, this is effective but the vaccine should be administered within three days of measles exposure or at any time during the local measles outbreak. This three day window means that even if your little one has already caught measles, her immune system can create antibodies to defend against it before it develops.

If your baby does have an early MMR, remember she will still need to have her routine MMR jabs to be protected in the future: one at 13 months, and another between the ages of three and five.

All our best wishes for protecting your little one, from all of us here at Private Pregnancy UK.

REFERENCES

 [1] http://www.parents.com/health/rashes/protecting-babies-from-measles/
 [2] http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-39419976
 [3] http://content.digital.nhs.uk/catalogue/PUB18472/nhs-immu-stat-eng-2014-15-rep.pdf
 [4] http://www.lincolnshirelive.co.uk/1-in-14-lincolnshire-children-miss-a-vaccination-and-they-could-put-your-child-at-risk/story-30169846-detail/story.html
 [5] http://content.digital.nhs.uk/catalogue/PUB18472/nhs-immu-stat-eng-2014-15-rep.pdf
 [6] http://www.bloismeadowdaynursery.com/policies/

 

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