WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - While you're checking items off the back-to-school supply list, doctors want to remind parents to remember one more thing — vaccinations.
"The virus causes a lot of deaths throughout the world, but in the United States it has not been a problem for a long time because of aggressive immunization programs in the 1960s and 1970s," Dr. Michael Stoiko, medical director of the pediatric intensive care unit at NHRMC, said of the measles. "In the 2000s, we thought we eliminated measles, but unfortunately it is coming back."
Stoiko attributes the recent uptick to fewer people getting vaccinations and more people traveling to places where they can catch the virus.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says 107 people from 21 states including North Carolina have come down with measles through July 14. At its current pace, the 2018 measles outbreak could be the worst since 2014, when there were 667 reported cases.
"It is extremely contagious, meaning if you get exposed to someone — like walk past them in a hallway, sit in a room with them or you're next to them at the store — you have a 90 percent chance you will get sick if not immunized," said Stoiko.
Stoiko says toddlers, small children and even adults should get the vaccination.
"In cases of people younger than 2 years old or older than 20, several percent of those kids or young adults will die from it, and a number of them will go on to have severe neurological problems," Stoiko said.
Measles often doesn't present itself until weeks after a person has been infected.
"When you first get exposed to the virus, you have no symptoms for anywhere from six days to 21 days," Stoiko said. "Then you develop a fever, cough, cold-like symptoms, and conjunctivitis. During that time, you have no rash but can pass on the virus very easily and that lasts for a week."
Stoiko has a message for parents who choose not to get their child vaccinated.
"I can give an analogy," he said. "If you choose not to put a seat belt on your child, you are using your right as a parent for what risks you are willing to accept for your child, but once you put your child out in the world not immunized, it's like taking the seat belt off other children, so you are putting children, kids with cancer and immune problems lives at risk."
Stoiko said no cases of the measles have been reported this year at NHRMC.