Deseret News Archives

There's a creaky sports cliche that runs, "You can't stop (so and so). You can only hope to contain him."

Health officials might consider it as a slogan for measles. Contrary to popular belief, measles, mumps, whooping cough and rubella never die. They don't even fade away. They simply lie low until people lower their guard.

Currently, the number of measles cases in the United States is at the highest level in more than 10 years. Half of those involve children whose parents simply will not allow their children to be vaccinated.

The number of cases remains relatively small — just 131. But when compared to the 42 cases last year, the trend is troubling. It is also noteworthy that in recent years measles epidemics have exploded in Israel, Switzerland and other countries. In the past, the United States would see hundreds of thousands of measles cases each year. A national campaign for immunization curbed that. Now, a fear of autism and mercury-based preservatives has some parents steering clear of the injections, though officials say they are perfectly safe.

Measles, of course, isn't the only childhood disease that lurks. The five illnesses listed above can all be spread by simply being in the same room with a contagious person. Sometimes people pass the illness on before even realizing they have it themselves. Luckily, there are vaccines to prevent the illness, though localized epidemics still often spring up.

Vigilance is the key — vigilance and information.

In the case of measles, the disease has been missing for so long that parents often don't recognize it and aren't sure what should be done when they do. The disease usually takes about 10 days to show up and lasts for about a week. There is no real treatment for measles except bed rest. Most people pull through without problems, though in some cases pneumonia and ear infections can result. It should be noted that aspirin should never be given to children with the five diseases mentioned since aspirin has been linked to deadly Reye's syndrome in sufferers.

For now, Utah is not part of the measles problem — though attention should always be paid to symptoms such as coughs, runny noses and rashes.

There was a time the measles was simply a part of life for millions of American children. Sadly, the disease was also the cause of death for thousands of them. That no longer is the case. Parents must do what they can to make sure the measles don't rebound.