PASCAGOULA, MS (WLOX) - Nicole Dickerson had no second thoughts when it was time for her daughter Ryleigh Elizabeth to have the measles vaccination.
“No. No hesitation,” she said. “I don’t even think it’s even like a question - like should I or shouldn’t I - because I was vaccinated. My husband was vaccinated, my mom was vaccinated, and my grandma was vaccinated. So, I mean, it’s just what you do.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is reporting almost 700 cases of measles from 22 states.
That’s the greatest number of cases reported in the United States since measles was eliminated in the country in 2000.
Mississippi is not among those states with confirmed cases, although there was a reported exposure in Hattiesburg earlier this month. However, it could be only a matter of time.
“I hope that it opens people’s eyes,” said Dr. Tyler Sexton, chief of pediatrics at Singing River Hospital in Pascagoula. “This is not a disease we’ve had to deal with for years. And because of this movement, it’s now coming back and it’s rearing its ugly head.”
Sexton said it could get worse with more people choosing not to vaccinate.
“With the vaccine, we saw a decrease in the measles and its infection,” he said. “And with the non-vaccination movement and those kinds of things, some viruses can come out of dormancy and start infecting kids.”
Sexton said he’s been receiving a lot of calls from patients who vaccinate and those who don’t.
At least, he said, it has started a conversation about how serious the situation is.
“Vaccines are safe. The science behind them, they are safe,” he said. “There is no secret to that. They’ve been studied time and time again and getting the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine saves children’s lives.”
Sexton said he won’t refuse to treat patients who aren’t immunized but will give those patients a strong message.
“It breaks my heart, I’ll tell you. Of all things as a pediatrician, the hardest part of my job is validating and showing people that we love kids and that giving vaccines does work and we stand by that," he said.
The CDC will release the next round of new numbers of measles cases on April 29, as part of efforts during National Infant Immunization Week to emphasize the life-saving benefits of childhood immunization.
Sexton said the best way to prevent the spread of measles is to be vaccinated and to follow the same steps as you would with any virus: wash your hands regularly and cover your sneezes and coughs, since that’s how the virus spreads.