Northwest measles outbreak revives debate over vaccine laws

FILE - In this Jan. 30, 2019 file photo signs posted at The Vancouver Clinic in Vancouver, Wash., warn patients and visitors of a measles outbreak. A measles outbreak near Portland, Ore., has revived a bitter debate over so-called personal belief exemptions to childhood vaccinations. Four percent of Washington secondary school students have non-medical vaccine exemptions. (AP Photo/Gillian Flaccus,File)

Some of you might have heard and noticed the buzz about a measles outbreak in Washington state this year.

And rightly so, because the measles is one of the most contagious human diseases in the world.

At least 43 cases of contracted measles have been reported in Washington’s Clark County. All but 11 are children 10 and younger. The Seattle Times reports that “liberal-leaning Oregon and Washington have some of the nation’s highest statewide vaccine exemption rates, driven in part by low vaccination levels in scattered communities and at some private and alternative schools.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the outbreaks are associated with travelers who brought measles back from foreign countries, and the majority of those who have gotten measles are unvaccinated.

A key piece of information from that statement is that they were unvaccinated.

Implemented in our country decades ago, the measles vaccine is effective; it does what modern medicine created it to do. The CDC reports that one dose of measles vaccine is about 93 percent effective at preventing measles if exposed to the virus, while two doses are about 97 percent effective.

And yet, we still encounter outbreaks and spreading due to a minority of the population that, not due to medical conditions, has unwisely opted to not vaccinate.

It was not long ago that Utah County had its last scare. In 2015, three cases of the measles exposed 400 people after those carrying the disease visited a number of shops and businesses in the community.

Responding to that 2015 outbreak in Utah County cost the state $115,000, and subjected other community members exposed by those three individuals to voluntary 21-day quarantines that impacted their ability to work and maintain other necessary tasks pertaining to their livelihoods.

With this information, the current Washington state outbreak does give cause for concern in Utah.

“Research shows that people who refuse vaccines tend to group together in communities,” the CDC has stated. “When measles gets into communities with pockets of unvaccinated people, outbreaks are more likely to occur. These communities make it difficult to control the spread of the disease. And these communities make us vulnerable to having the virus re-establish itself in our country.”

Unvaccinated children under 5 years old are at the highest risk of becoming victims of the disease. Nearly 10 percent of Utah County’s population — 60,000 kids — are under the age of 5.

Some communities in the U.S. have gotten lazy in regards to obtaining the vaccine. This has led to the outbreak we are witnessing now, and other outbreaks in recent years.

The easy way to avoid contagion?

Get vaccinated.

It’s that simple. It not only removes the majority of the risk for yourself and family members, but also the hundreds you come into contact with throughout the community who would be affected.

Because, if you frivolously thought opting out of vaccination is a personal decision that would only impact yourself — we all have proof that is wrong.

If you have symptoms including a high fever, sensitivity to light and textured rash on the upper body, contact your health care provider. Those who think they may have contracted measles or were exposed should speak to the office or ER before visiting to prevent spreading the disease.