Jan 12, 2015 — Is the resurgence of measles and mumps really a reason to be concerned for your child? We asked Dr. Susan Terry about the recent outbreaks. Listen to find out about the serious life-altering complications from getting it, the scientific evidence regarding autism, and what she thinks will finally change the minds of parents that currently refuse to vaccinate their child.

Interview

Announcer: Medical news and research from University Utah physicians and specialists you can use for a happier and healthier life. You're listening to The Scope.

Interviewer: I'm hearing stories about measles and mumps in the news and I guess, I always thought there was a vaccination for that and I should not be reading about this. We're with Dr. Susan Terry. She's Executive Medical Director for Community Clinics at University of Utah Health Care. Are we in a place in the past few months where it's becoming a big deal? We're seeing a lot more cases of measles and mumps on a national level?

Dr. Terry: I think we have outbreaks every year. For example, in 2014 there were about 20 outbreaks across the country and about 600 and some cases of measles. The latest graph I saw showed that there was a pretty dramatic jump in the number of cases over the last several years, particularly between 2013 and 2014. Of measles, there was a dramatic increase.

Interviewer: Does this trend concern you, or is it always going to be around this number because there is just going to be a certain number of people that aren't going to be vaccinate? Is this something to be concerned about?

Dr. Terry: It is something to be concerned about because the reason vaccinations were developed for those diseases is because there are really serious complications that can occur. The complications aren't the most common thing that happens but when they happen they can be extremely serious.

Interviewer: What are some of the serious ones that could really change a child's life or a person's life?

Dr. Terry: Serious things that we used to see, back in the '30s, '40s and '50s were things like deafness that can result from both measles and mumps. You can get brain inflammation or encephalitis that could result in mental retardation which is permanent. With mumps there can be inflammation of either the testicles or the ovaries which could result in infertility later in life. There are some really serious complications.

Interviewer: I'm hearing now kids that are too young to get the shots are coming down with it. How can you protect them?

Dr. Terry: By making sure the adults around them are immunized, for sure. Similar to the campaign we had around whooping cough, they have great billboards out there about grandparents not taking care of babies if they are not immunized against whooping cough. It's the same thing with measles and mumps. We should be sure that the people taking care of our children have been immunized and, of course, being careful about hand washing and exposures and that kind of thing. One other thing we want to make sure to get out there on measles is that it can be very serious for pregnant women as well. It can result in either premature delivery or very low birth weight babies who are at risk then for other complications. Pregnant women, we want to make sure that they have been immunized and that they are not exposed if they are not immunized.

Interviewer: People aren't getting shots, that's part of what the problem is, they're not getting the vaccinations. In your experience, why is that?

Dr. Terry: There is a fear that immunizations can be associated with autism. It was felt to be that possibly one of the preservatives that was formally used in vaccinations could result or cause the development of autism. Most of the research that's been done on this has clearly shown that there is not a relationship between autism and vaccination. We really are trying to make sure that message gets out and let people know that the complications of these, what we felt to be controlled viral infections in the past, the complications can be much more serious than the likelihood of developing a reaction to the vaccination.
The other thing that is another common reason is that there are some religious objections in certain places and certain cultures to immunization. We would really like to see all children get immunized.

Interviewer: Here's what keeps me scratching my head. You go on the Internet and you read posts from people who are very anti-vaccinations for the reasons you said. How do we convince those people that that's not right, or how do we convince them otherwise that they should get the shot? Because, obviously, they're very passionate that they should not get the shot.

Dr. Terry: I think all we can do is keep educating people. And unfortunately, if we begin to see these infections like measles and mumps, we will begin to see complications. I think it won't take very many times for parents to hear about children who become deaf or retarded in their development after a brain inflammation resulting from mumps or measles, for example. I think as a parent, it wouldn't take very many times for me to hear that to say, "Wait a minute. If there is a potential to protect my child, I really want to do that."

Announcer: TheScopeRadio.com is University of Utah Health Sciences Radio. If you like what you heard, be sure to get our latest content by following us on Facebook. Just click on the Facebook icon at TheScopeRadio.com.