Why Vaccination is so Important: The Current Measles Outbreak
The eradication of infectious diseases is an integral part of maintaining quality healthcare for everyone, throughout the world. Scientists and Doctors agree that the very best way to prevent the spread of infectious, virus-based disease is vaccination. Those who make the decision not to vaccinate are contributing to outbreaks of infectious diseases that could otherwise remain contained and the current Measles outbreak is no exception.
In January of this year, Washington State declared a state of emergency due to a measles outbreak, one of the most contagious diseases in the world. Washington has seen 48 cases of measles to date, the highest number of cases since 1996. CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta reported that in the year 2000, the United States had effectively eliminated measles but that due to the rise in unvaccinated children, health experts could predict the arrival of the disease to this area of the U.S.
Measles is a respiratory infection, caused by an airborne virus that is spread by coughing and sneezing. The contagion can survive in a room for up to two hours. From the time you are exposed to the measles virus to the time when you start to see symptoms, several days can pass. During this time, you can unknowingly infect countless other people. The state of Hawaii saw two cases of measles earlier this year, which were traced back to travelers from Washington State.
The first case of measles in the 2019 outbreak originated from an international traveler to Washington State who was in contact with a community with low vaccination rates. Washington Department of Health officials identified over 100 public places that were exposed to infection, due to this traveler.
According to the New York State Department of Health, there have been 209 cases of measles in New York, since October 2018, which originally stemmed from travel to Israel and was spread to observant Jewish communities in the state. As a result of this outbreak, over 6,000 unvaccinated children were excluded from school for over 2 months. However, in light of spreading awareness about the importance of vaccination, over 14,000 children have been vaccinated since. Public health officials agree that individuals who opt out of vaccinations are reacting to misinformation and not to scientific evidence that proves the efficacy of vaccines.
The states of Oregon and Washington allow for a Personal Belief Exemption which allows parents not to vaccinate their children before they enter Kindergarten. In 2019, 7.9% of families were taking this exemption clause. In many places in North America, particularly all across Canada, children are prevented from enrolling in school without an up-to-date immunization record, which includes the measles vaccine. In Italy this year, the government has banned any child under the age of 6 from attending school without the vaccine and a $560 fine for anyone who cannot provide an up-to-date immunization record. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one or two out of every 1,000 children who contract measles will die from the disease.
In an MSN Lifestyle article last month, Joshua Nerius told his story about contracting measles at the age of 30. Joshua had no idea he was not vaccinated as a child and says he was infected at his sister’s graduation ceremony, where it was later confirmed that a visitor from abroad had passed along the virus. Joshua told MSN “it was literally just me walking by someone”. He now speaks out against parents who hold similar beliefs as those of his own parents, asking them to vaccinate their children against the disease.
Measles continues to be a global health concern, killing more than 100,000 people each year worldwide, the vast majority of whom are children under the age of 5. The measles vaccine is 93% effective against the virus with the first dose, recommended for children aged 12-15 months, and the effectiveness increases to 97% with a second dose between the ages of 4-6. If you have any questions about vaccination, speak to your family doctor.