Measles outbreak: local physicians warn it could reach our area

MADISON, Wis (WMTV) - An outbreak of the measles, a disease that has nearly been wiped out, is spreading across several states coast to coast. NBC15 spoke with a local physician about the potential for the disease to make its way to our viewing area.

There are confirmed measles cases across the country, from California to New York. There are two cases reported in Illinois.

Dr. Alan Schwartzstein, a family medicine physician with SSM Health, said the disease is highly contagious and can spread quickly. He said, if a person is not vaccinated, there is a 90 percent chance of contracting the disease.

“As a physician who sees children, knowing that the germ is active in New York and Atlanta, somebody who gets on a plane there and then comes to the Dane Co. airport could potentially expose people in Dane Co. airport who haven’t been vaccinated and others in the community,” he said.

Dr. Shwartzstein said, while typical symptoms include a rash and fever, it can be more dangerous than what meets the eye.

“Three out of 10 people that get it will have complications, and some of those like pneumonia, irritation of the brain and respiratory failure can be fatal,” he said.

One Madison-area mother, Michelle Yoo, said her and her husband homeschool their four children. Yoo said, after extensive research, they decided to not vaccinate their children. She said her biggest concerns were additives to the vaccines and health problems later in life.

“We really looked at it, and we really felt it was better to avoid alot the additives that are in the vaccines. I’m not so worried about the actual vaccine’s component, the actual virus- that is not the concern for me,” she said.

However, doctors are urging people to vaccinate. Dr. Schwartzstein said there are many common and un-true myths surrounding vaccines.

“Vaccines are safe. They do not cause the diseases they are suggested to cause. They do not cause autism, and they are very effective,” he said.

Yoo said she is no stranger to backlash, but stands by her decision.
“In our case we don’t vaccinate knowing they full well may get the disease and are comfortable with the risk that they do,” she said.

Dr. Schwartzstein said he recommends his patients to get vaccinated right away, to avoid contracting the disease. The vaccines is 97 percent effective in preventing it.

“The vaccine is actually a very natural product. What we are doing is taking a portion of a measles germ, which has been beaten down a bit, and we are using it to create a natural defense mechanism in your children’s body,” he said.