In Depth with Brad Byrd: Dr. Payal talks about the flu, the measles, and vaccines

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It’s been a tough winter. Flu season is having impact on our schools. Just this week Union County School leaders cancelled classes in all schools.

And the measles nationwide has been making headlines recently.

Dr. Payal Patel-Dovlatabadi will talk about the flu, measles, vaccines, and what you should know about these viruses.

Facts about the flu can be found here.

What you need to know about the measles can be found here.

Full Transcription

Brad Byrd: Welcome to in-depth. It’s been a tough winter. Flu season is having impact on our schools. Just this week Union County School leaders cancelled classes in all schools. And the measles nationwide is making headlines, that’s the measles, that’s like trip back in time.
Joining us tonight our go to person on health Dr. Payal Patel Dovlatabadi, associate professor and director of public health at the University of Evansville. Dr. Payal, good to see you again.

Dr. Payal Patel-Dovlatabadi: thank you for having me.

Brad Byrd: Now, let’s talk first about the measles. A portion of the United States has had an outbreak and we’ve had a case reported in the Bowling Green, Kentucky area. How is that happening? We’re kind of surprised how this can all start.

Dr. Payal Patel-Dovlatabadi: It is very surprising. Nationally, we have about 92% measles vaccine rate, which is actually very good and very high. However, measles come to the US via international travel. So, when families go internationally to visit Europe, Asia or Africa where the measles virus is very endemic – they may contract it and bring it back to the US. And very unique thing about measles is that it is highly contagious. So, if that person has the measles, they can infect up to 18 people – 18 unvaccinated people. If you’re in a room with someone with Measles, the measles can stay in the room for up to two hours.

Brad Byrd: It’s airborne, obviously, right?

Dr. Payal Patel-Dovlatabadi: Yes, it’s airborne. If you are exposed to someone who has the measles you have over a 90% chance of getting the virus. It’s just highly, highly contagious.

Brad Byrd: And let’s just say you’re not vaccinated, and you do contract the virus what are the symptoms first and obviously you need medical help.

Dr. Payal Patel-Dovlatabadi: Yes, the very first symptom is going to be a very high fever – as high as 104 degrees, runny nose, conjunctivitis, and then about five or six days into the virus you’ll develop a full rash. So, that’s really the distinguishing factor for measles. If someone has the measles, it’s very important to stay in isolation so you’re not spreading it to others. Typically, the measles can last 14 to 20 days, it just depends on the individual. There’s no treatment for the measles virus, so you just have to let it play out.

Brad Byrd: In the past 50 or 60 years, we haven’t had cases like we are this year and that’s kind of scary. And there has been an argument by a minority of the population that vaccines should not be administered to children, what do you say to that?

Dr. Payal Patel-Dovlatabadi: There’s absolutely no link between vaccinations and autism – I think that’s the big debate right now. Vaccinations save lives. It’s one of the biggest public health efforts to date. Prior to the MMR vaccination, we had millions and millions of cases of measles and mumps and rubella that resulted in high mortality rates in children and elderly. Vaccinations save lives. I think it’s very important to get that vaccination. And just to give you an example, children who get the MMR vaccine at 12 to 15 months, it has about a 90% effectiveness rate. They are supposed to get a second dose at about 4 to 6 years old that measles and mumps and rubella vaccination rate jumps up to about 95% effective rate. So, you’re protected 95% from these highly contagious and deadly illnesses.

Brad Byrd: Let’s talk about the flu now. We got a break from the flu a few years ago, with Zika, the west nile virus, Let’s talk about the flu because there have been a lot of cases especially in the western KY who have had to cancel classes. And this week in Union County – an entire week of classes was canceled.  Why has it been so prevalent right now?

Dr. Payal Patel-Dovlatabadi: It has a lot to do in the change in strain. Up until last month, we’ve typically seen the H1N1 strain being predominant. However, that’s being converted into H3N2 and we’re seeing spikes in the H3N2 strain. It also has to do with vaccination uptick grades. If children or adults aren’t getting the vaccine, the flu will spread easily, especially in enclosed places. We have to look at how many people got the vaccine and this year’s vaccine effectiveness is very high compared to two years ago when it was a low effectiveness.

Brad Byrd: Some people say, I’m not getting a flu shot, I’ve never gotten the flu what do you tell them?

Dr. Payal Patel-Dovlatabadi: I always say get the flu shot, it’s the best preventive measure we can take. There is a possibility of getting the flu, even if you get the flu shot. However, it lessens the duration and the severity of the flu.

Brad Byrd: And how does a flu shot really work? What is it doing to our body’s that fools the virus?

Dr. Payal Patel-Dovlatabadi: You’re essentially injecting a weaker version of the flu virus. So, you’re developing antibodies against the actual virus. So, when your body actually comes into contact with the flu virus, the antibodies will help you fight it off. But again, the effectiveness of the flu shot is not 100% and there’s still a likelihood you could get the flu, but not as severe.

Brad Byrd: The elderly and even young children – Sometimes when you get these symptoms, you get a mild fever or a more severe fever, when do you say to your child or perhaps your elderly parents, we got to get you to the doctor?

Dr. Payal Patel-Dovlatabadi: Children, elderly, pregnant women, those with immune comprised systems are very susceptible and vulnerable complications of the flu – they have a greater likelihood of developing pneumonia. And it’s just very difficult to fight it off.

Brad Byrd: what stage into the symptoms do you go to the doctor.

Dr. Payal Patel-Dovlatabadi: If you have a significantly high fever and really if you’re elderly or a child definitely go to the doctors just to make sure there aren’t complications that are developed.

Brad Byrd: We’ll continue to watch this very carefully and thank you for being here Dr. Payal.

Dr. Payal Patel-Dovlatabadi: And thank you for having me this evening. 

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(This story was originally published on March 7, 2019)

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