Measles cases up in U.S.

Doctors stress importance of keeping immunizations up to date

Little Kylie Beckel sits on an exam table in a pediatrician’s office.

Wearing a medical apron, the 5-year-old’s tiny legs are dangling from the end of it. She’s calmly reading a book. There she sits, blissfully unaware of what is to come next.

Kylie is about to get a round of required immunizations so she can start kindergarten in the fall at Verda Dierzen Early Learning Center in Woodstock.

Enter two Centegra CNAs with a tray in hand and three shots on top, and Kylie’s demeanor immediately changes.

“Am I getting a shot?” she asked her mother, Kristin Beckel.

Then began the begging, the pleading, the negotiating. Toys and ice cream were among the treats Kylie was promised for being a brave girl.

Sure, these immunizations are painful for children to receive and parents to watch, but Beckel’s pediatrician, Dr. Christine Poulos, said these vaccines are important for the greater public health.

Thanks to a measles outbreak in the U.S. – the largest since the disease was virtually eradicated 20 years ago – it’s more important than ever to make sure immunizations are up to date, Poulos said.

“People that don’t vaccinate are taking advantage that most people do. … It’s not just about their baby, it’s about the community at large,” she said.

Symptoms of measles include fever, runny nose, cough, loss of appetite and red, watery eyes. Those signs last for about four days and are followed by a rash, which lasts for five to six days. The rash normally starts at the hairline and proceeds down the body.

Complications can arise from measles, including diarrhea, ear infections, pneumonia, encephalitis, seizures and death.

The largest measles outbreak has been in Ohio, where officials say the outbreak was spread by international travelers who brought it back to nonimmunized residents.

Illinois has had two reported cases of the measles this year – both in west central McDonough County. Last year, there were five who contracted the disease, and none in 2012.

It’s unclear how the two – one adult and one child – contracted measles, but Illinois Department of Public Health officials don’t expect the spread to be aggressive, spokeswoman Melaney Arnold said.

Immunizations are required for entry into public schools in Illinois. However, exemptions can be made for religious or medical reasons. The state’s immunization rate is 97 percent, according to data from the State Board of Education.

Experts fear that because measles was nearly eradicated in the early 1990s, that may mean some doctors have never encountered the disease outside of medical textbooks.

“Many doctors have never seen the disease before. It may take time to recognize the symptoms,” Poulos said.

• The Associated Press contributed to this report

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