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Media advisory: Vaccine expert can discuss U.S. outbreak of measles

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

LAWRENCE — According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 102 people from 14 states contracted measles in January resulting from an ongoing outbreak linked to an initial exposure at Disneyland or Disney California Adventure Park in Anaheim, California. 

Measles is a highly infectious airborne disease initially characterized by fever, cough, runny nose and red eyes, followed by a red rash. The CDC advises, “Vaccination is the most important strategy to prevent measles.” Measles vaccines have been available in the United States since 1963.

William Picking, director of the Kansas Vaccine Institute and Foundation Distinguished Professor of Pharmaceutical Chemistry at the University of Kansas, is available to speak with reporters about the measles outbreak.

“The current spread of measles across the country is disturbing in that it brings to light the number of people who are choosing to not to be vaccinated or to vaccinate their children,” Picking said. “Prior to the availability of a vaccine, there were typically around a half-million cases of measles per year in the U.S. with hundreds of deaths. The effectiveness of the measles vaccine has erased the memory of how contagious this illness is. This and the fuel of a now-debunked report linking vaccines to autism have created an increasing number of reservoirs for the spread of measles.”

Picking is acknowledged as one of the top authorities on virulence, and in particular, Type III secretion systems. He has made major advances in the study of the pathogenesis of shigella, a disease plaguing the developing world. In addition to researching and developing new vaccines, the Kansas Vaccine Institute promotes the benefits of childhood vaccination.

“The recommended two-dose schedule is 97 percent effective in preventing measles and not only protects a vulnerable group of healthy children but also protects those who cannot be vaccinated,” Picking said.

To schedule an interview with Picking, contact Brendan Lynch at 785-864-8855 or Brendan@ku.edu.

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