Amazing Kids! Magazine

Measles Outbreak

By Ashley Lin, Nonfiction Editor and Adult Spotlight Interviewer

 

What would you expect when you go to Disneyland? Fun, food, friends; Mickey Mouse; and Disney princesses roaming about. Never would one have expected what a family of five came home with: the measles, a potentially fatal disease.

If you visited the amusement park sometime between December 14-15, 2015, you were privy to receiving an unwelcome souvenir. During that time, one of the happiest places in the world became one of the most dangerous. By January 10, there were seven cases in California and two in Utah, all linked to the first infected person at Disney. In just another two days, 17 more cases had popped up. January 30 revealed more than 102 cases in more than 12 states.

Those kids first targeted with the disease were not to blame for their unvaccinated status. It is the parents who are at fault. The U.S. vaccination schedule requires all children to receive a few doses of the measles vaccine in their early years. However, parents can opt out of this with two reasons: religious objection or personal objection. But why would there be a reason to have an “objection” in the first place? If this scenario occurred at Disneyland, imagine what would happen at school, a place where hundreds of students interact with each other every day!

A few unvaccinated children are a bigger threat than most people think. Measles causes two deaths per every thousand cases, and that’s just two people too many. Vaccines are there for you to take, affordable, and offered all over the nation. Ninety-five percent of the population needs to be vaccinated to reach and ensure a concept called herd immunity. With the general public’s best interests in mind, all students in public schools should be vaccinated for the measles.

Measles is one of those “you see it on you and you know it” diseases. You get a fever, cough, and runny nose, which seems like a normal cold—that is, until you meet the angry red rashes covering your whole body. Measles might just seem like a harmless childhood disease, but it can kill someone or leave him or her with lifelong disabilities. Severe complications include pneumonia and encephalitis with devastating consequences.

Even more devastating is that the sickness spreads like a wildfire. Measles is a highly infectious airborne illness, droplets of the virus living up to two hours. Symptoms don’t appear until day four, and by that time, you have already been contagious for more than half a week. Ninety percent of individuals not vaccinated will catch the measles if exposed. As the number of cases intensifies exponentially, the disease rapidly spreads throughout communities. However, we are fortunate to have a very effective tool to combat this problem with: the vaccines.

The U.S. vaccination schedule for measles recommends the first dose for children at 12-15 months of age. Before entering school, at about four to six years of age, they receive the second dose. A booster shot is also given at ages 11-12, before middle school. After receiving these three shots, children are “fortified” against the measles. This schedule is strongly endorsed by the CDC and medical health experts as safe and effective.

How can people who cannot be vaccinated be protected from this disease? Herd immunity is the key. The young and the old rely on others to avoid exposure to measles. If enough people take the vaccine, it ensures that enough people are immune so that no sustained chains of transmission can be established. One way to do this is to make sure that all students receive the vaccines before they enter school. Unfortunately, not everyone agrees with this.

“There is absolutely no reason to get the shot,” stated Crystal McDonald, a mom with two unvaccinated children who is part of the anti-vaccine movement. The anti-vaccine movement is traced to 1998, when a journal reported a link between vaccines and autism. This was proved wrong, however, and taken back immediately. So, why is there still a resistance towards vaccines? Some still believe in the link; others, such as the Amish, have religious objections. Another subculture of wealthy and well-educated parents want to carve all-natural, organic lives for their children. All of this means is that there are now simply too many unvaccinated children.

What makes it hard is that these people are the building blocks of herd immunity, the ones who prevent the disease from spreading to people either too young, too sick, or allergic to the vaccine. The measles was declared vanquished, gone, 15 years ago, until a group of people started refusing vaccines. Now it’s coming back, hitting stronger than ever. It is our duty, as part of the greater community, to work with modern society and overcome personal fears to protect our friends and family.

Due to the overwhelming research verifying the necessity of vaccines, all students in public schools should be vaccinated for measles. Measles is potentially fatal and comes with severe complications. Vaccines completely eradicated this common childhood disease in the United States years ago, and with that, herd immunity stabilized.

Now, as more and more people refuse the vaccines due to personal and religious objections, they are not only endangering themselves but the people around them. “It’s very frustrating. It’s hard to see a kid suffer from something that is entirely preventable,” says Dr. Eric Ball, a pediatrician who works in Orange County, California, as he tries to persuade parents to vaccinate their children.

When your actions and choices start negatively impacting others, when they start exposing the medically unstable to the measles, when they endanger both the young and the old, it should not be your “choice” to make anymore. All students in public schools should be vaccinated for the measles. This vaccine has no significant impacts against your well-being but great, positive impacts for someone else’s.

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