More Exemptions and Less Vaccination: The 2 Factors Driving US Measles Outbreaks

Nora Nguyen
February 8, 2019

So far in the US this year, about 80 cases of measles have been reported, with two outbreaks ongoing in Washington and NY states. Washington and NY, which has seen about 200 people infected with measles in recent months, are the only states with current outbreaks, the agency says.

Washington and OR are among 17 states that allow non-medical exemptions from vaccination requirements for school entry, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. If you think you might be infected, the safest thing to do is stay in your room because of the highly contagious nature of the disease.

As measles outbreaks are making headlines across the United States, it's time to sound the alarm on inappropriate personal vaccine exemptions and confront the deadly consequences of vaccine refusal.

Wednesday, February 6, three of the four possible cases have been ruled out as measles. Before the MMR vaccine was developed, mumps was the most common cause of both meningitis (inflammation of the lining of the brain and spinal cord) and acquired deafness in the U.S. In men, mumps can infect the testicles, which can lead to infertility.

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The first cities listed as vulnerable?

Canada could experience the same type of measles outbreaks that Washington and NY states are now facing because of low vaccination rates and the highly contagious nature of the virus, public health experts warn.

The outbreak started near Portland, in OR, at the beginning of the year and speedily multiplied to Washington. There have been calls in recent years for Canada to start a national registry to help officials keep better track of vaccination rates.

The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that in order to reach the measles herd immunity threshold and stop the spread, at least 93-95% of the population must be up-to-date on vaccinations. The outbreak in Clark County has been concentrated mostly among unvaccinated children.

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To date, 48 of the 50 confirmed cases have been identified in children aged between 1 and 18 years.

The wave of infections came despite record vaccinations across Europe in 2017. Only 81% of 1 to 5 year olds in the county have received a dose of MMR, according to Clark County, Washington Public Health.

"In adopting EVAP, all countries in the European Region agreed that elimination of measles and rubella is possible, and is also a cost-effective way to protect people of all ages from avoidable suffering and death", says Dr Nedret Emiroglu, Director of the Division of Health Emergencies and Communicable Diseases, WHO Regional Office for Europe.

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