California’s Measles Outbreak
In addition to placing in jeopardy Disneyland’s once-untouchable “Happiest Place on Earth” title, California’s recent measles outbreak is now responsible for a current total of 78 cases present in seven states and Mexico – 68 of them in California.
Due to this outbreak, the United States this year is already poised to surpass 2014’s 20 year high for measles infections, forcing drastic measures to minimize the spread of the disease. Orange County, for example, “have said that unvaccinated children will be excluded from school or day care for 21 days if they come in contact with a contagious measles patient.” In San Diego, more extreme measures have been imposed. Two clinics in the city were forced to shut-down “after five people arrived with the telltale rash caused by measles. Anyone with no proof of vaccination who came in contact with the people was put under a mandatory quarantine for 21 days.”
While blame for the measles outbreak has been squarely aimed at the anti-vaccination movement, so has much of the concern. For anyone without immunity to the disease, measles is both extremely infectious, and dangerous.
“Measles remains one of the most infectious illnesses on the planet. The virus stays active and contagious in the air for up to two hours, and can be transmitted from an infected person for up to four days before and after a rash appears.” Health officials estimate that 90 percent of people exposed to the virus without immunity will become infected.
Many “Anti-vaxxers” have attempted to downplay the severity of the disease, frequently citing its relatively low mortality rate (the apparent argument being that the “risks” associated with vaccines greatly outweigh the dangers of the measles). But while death is indeed an uncommon result of a measles infection, patients are still susceptible to a long list of other complications. According to a recent Slate article, “Prevaccine, almost 48,000 people were also hospitalized each year because of measles and measles complications. One in 20 of those infected developed pneumonia. More rarely but more seriously, each year 1,000 became chronically disabled due to measles encephalitis.”
Thanks to the measles vaccine, the previously annual 4 million cases of the disease has been brought to a level so low that health officials declared the disease eliminated in the United States. Still, as numerous examples now indicate, with falling vaccination rates, come greater measles outbreaks, threatening the decades of progress that has been made in disease prevention.
Measles in particular “is a disease that has been beaten by modern medicine. That makes it all the more frustrating that anti-science stubbornness has proven, in the case of the Disneyland-related measles, that when it comes to contagious diseases, it’s a small world after all.”