COLUMN: Measles outbreaks are reasons why vaccination should increase

The measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine became available in the United States in 1971. This vaccine, given to infants between the ages of 12 to 15 months and then again between the ages of four to six years, prevents the spread of these diseases. And while the vaccine has reduced the incidence of measles cases by 99 percent in the U.S., cases are still occurring. IU confirmed a case of measles at the McNutt Quad on Jan. 10.  Measles is a contagious disease but can be prevented with the MMR vaccine. Cases like the one at IU are reasons why education about vaccination should be increased.  

An airborne disease, measles can be spread through coughing and sneezing. Before the vaccine was created, three to four million people contracted the disease. Of the cases reported to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 400 to 500 died and 1000 suffered from brain swelling. The vaccine decreased measles cases by almost 100 percent

In the early twentieth century, infectious diseases killed thousands of Americans. In the 1960s, rubella killed almost 13 million Americans. Almost everyone in the U.S. had measles, and diphtheria killed 15,000 people. Since vaccines have become common, these diseases have almost disappeared in the U.S.

Almost is the key word. In 2000, measles was almost eliminated in the U.S. However, in 2014, 129 people were infected with measles. California had 58 cases, flowed by New York and Washington. The CDC said this was the largest outbreak since 1996. 

According to the Journal of Academic Medicine, measles came back because of parents choosing to not vaccinate their children. This is largely negligent behavior that puts all of us at risk. With globalization occurring, people from countries where measles has not been eradicated are coming into contact with Americans. Most of California’s 58 cases occurred due to foreign contact with the virus. 19 of the cases occurred because people were not vaccinated due to “philosophical objections”. 

Since 2000, the rate of measles has increased. Nakia Clemmons, an epidemiologist at the CDC said this could be because unvaccinated communities have a greater risk of being susceptible to measles

There is also a growing number of those communities in the U.S. While overall the proportion of Americans vaccinated for measles is high, there are certain areas where coverage is less than 90 percent. In the Annual report of Immunization Status, almost 45,000 students in Texas had a personal belief exemption for vaccines in 2015.  This can lead to more cases in the future, like the case at IU. 

Diseases like measles don’t just affect the infected person. They also have an impact on everyone they were in contact with. For the IU case, customers and employees for Bed Bath and Beyond and the CVS near the College Mall now have to monitory themselves for signs of measles.  This is in addition to workers and visitors at the Bloomington Holiday Inn and riders of the Go Express Shuttle on Jan. 2. 

What’s even more frustrating is that these outbreaks don’t need to occur. The U.S. eradicated measles in 2000. Yet, measles and other infectious diseases still persist. IU is currently investigating the measles case. However, in order for this to become a rare occurrence rather than a constant one, vaccination rates need to increase. 

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