As the anti-vaccination movement gains ground, its effects are becoming apparent.
Authorities have confirmed the first measles case in Maine since 1997. The Maine Health and Environmental Testing Laboratory confirmed the case and are now trying to figure out who else might have been exposed to the disease. The state’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention said that the infected person comes from Franklin County. Dr. Siiri Bennett, the state epidemiologist, told Bangor Daily News that the individual contracted the disease while traveling abroad. While measles has almost been eradicated in the continental US, thanks to wide-scale vaccination, it still remains prevalent in many parts of the world. If vaccination rates go down, the population will become vulnerable and the disease can spread again.
Two doses of the vaccine will fend off the disease in 97 percent of all cases. They’re about as effective in combating measels as a condom are for STDS, and with just as many side effects. A recent study from the World Health Organization found that worldwide, the measles vaccine saved over 20,000,000 lives since 2000 alone.
“Making measles history is not mission impossible,” said Robin Nandy, UNICEF Immunization Chief, at the time. “We have the tools and the knowledge to do it; what we lack is the political will to reach every single child, no matter how far. Without this commitment, children will continue to die from a disease that is easy and cheap to prevent.”
Measles is more than just an annoying rash — aside from the usual high fever, patients of all ages are subject to complications which include pneumonia and brain swelling. So far this year, 108 people have been diagnosed with measles in the US. The states of California, Florida, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Utah, and Washington have all reported cases, the vast majority representing people which haven’t been vaccinated. However, people who don’t vaccinate also put others at risk.
When a sufficient part of the population is vaccinated and immunized, something called herd immunity is achieved. Even individuals not vaccinated (such as newborns and those with chronic illnesses) are offered some protection because the disease has little opportunity to spread within the community. If even 5% of people lose their immunization, herd immunity is lost and the entire population is at risk.
A few years ago, in 2014, measles outbreaks were unusually high, with one outbreak infecting 383 people, occurring primarily among unvaccinated Amish communities in Ohio.