BY MATT MACKINDER
Clarkston News Staff Writer
With the recent measles outbreak in southeast Oakland County, there is no panic within Clarkston Community Schools.
According to Clarkston Medical Group Medical Director Erica Harding, MD, the solution to avoiding the measles in general is to get vaccinated.
Measles is contracted by inhaling virus-infected particles. Infectious droplets from infected persons remain in the air for two hours, and thus, is extremely contagious.
“Measles is covered in the MMR vaccine,” Harding said. “Michigan public schools require two doses prior to kindergarten. The first dose is given at one year of age and the second at 4. In the event of an outbreak, however, younger children can be given their second and final dose as soon as 28 days after their first dose.”
This is Michigan’s biggest outbreak of measles in the last quarter century (21 confirmed cases since March 13) and the list of locations with potential exposures continues to grow, said Clarkston Medical Group nurse practitioner Bianca Green.
Harding said she has not seen any measles cases within CCS or at CMG.
“I am not aware of any cases in Northern Oakland County,” she said. “I think our biggest risk as a community right now is someone bringing back measles from an international trip and exposing other unvaccinated individuals.
“The only way to prevent the spread of measles is vaccination – I cannot stress this enough. If you haven’t had your child vaccinated, you should do so. The vaccine starts building immunity quickly. The health center does have the MMR vaccine available.”
The protocol for vaccines at CCS, according to Tena Moiles, CCS pupil accounting supervisor
Clarkston Community Schools, is as follows:
“At the time of enrollment parents must provide an up to date copy of the students immunization record or a current certified waiver from the health department. Prior to the student starting school each school verifies that students are not in need of any required vaccine. If a student is missing a vaccination, they are not allowed to start school until they provide proof of receiving the vaccination or present a certified waiver.”
Green noted that “MMR is a required vaccine for CCS students, but it is not safe to assume all students in the schools are vaccinated, as some opt out of the vaccine through signing a waiver.”
“Unvaccinated individuals risk getting the measles,” noted Harding. “It’s important to remember that outbreaks remain relatively small, but six percent of people who get the measles get pneumonia and 1 in 1000 will get encephalitis (brain inflammation). While most healthy children and adults will recover from measles, these complications can be deadly. “Secondly, unvaccinated individuals put their community at risk by potentially exposing infants and those who cannot be vaccinated for whom these complications are more common.”
Harding went on to say that measles cases are coming back due to low vaccination rates.
“Most outbreaks start with a traveler that returns from a country experiencing an outbreak,” explained Harding. “We will see breakthroughs if vaccination rates drop below 96 percent because it is so contagious. There are also some individuals who do not build immunity to the vaccine, and therefore, it is our responsibility as citizens of Clarkston to get these rates back up.”
Infants 6-12 months can get vaccinated earlier to protect them during this outbreak and if they plan international travel.
“I feel strongly that those families participating in mission trips abroad should vaccinate themselves to avoid exposing those they are serving who may be malnourished, which increases the complications of measles,” said Harding. “They should also realize that those in poverty may not have been vaccinated and they risk then bringing measles home with them to Clarkston when they return.”
If patients experience a high fever and a rash (they occur at the same time in measles) and suspects measles, they should call their doctor for instructions. Harding said they do not want these patients in waiting rooms and will make arrangements to avoid exposing other individuals, for example, entering through a back door.
“Under no circumstances should a child go to school and they should not go to the student health center,” Harding said. “Parents can call the health center and we will advise them on where to be evaluated.
“We would love to engage in dialogue with any parents who have questions or concerns.”