Earlier this month, we covered a measles outbreak that began in Disneyland, where nine cases of the disease were confirmed. Now, the outbreak is continuing to spread across California, as 59 cases of measles have been reported as of Wednesday. 42 of the 59 California cases have been linked to the Disneyland outbreak. An additional eight related cases have also spread to Utah, Washington, Oregon, Colorado, and Mexico.
This month s outbreak has once again sparked concerns around the anti-vaccination movement, which is blamed for the resurgence of measles after it was eliminated from the United States in 2000. In 2014, over 600 cases of the measles were reported in the US the highest number of cases in the past two decades.
Dr. James Cherry, a specialist in pediatric infectious diseases at the University of California Los Angeles, said the outbreak was 100 percent connected to the anti-vaccine movement. It wouldn t have happened otherwise it wouldn t have gone anywhere, he said. Indeed, when a high enough level of protection among a community (vaccination rates above 95 percent) against a contagious disease is achieved, herd immunity helps contain the spread of the disease, even among those not vaccinated. While the overall vaccination exemption rate in California was 3.1 percent in the last school year, there are still pockets of communities where vaccination rates are dangerously low. Particularly, it was reported late last year that certain wealthy schools in West Hollywood and Los Angeles have vaccination rates as low as South Sudan. As a result of the outbreak, health officials in Orange County issued a statement saying that students who did not have documentation for measles vaccination would not be allowed to attend class more than 20 were sent home from one Orange County high school.
Although children are required to receive vaccinations to attend schools, many parents cite health, religious, and philosophical reasons in order to get vaccination exemption. California tightened its personal belief exemption law last year, which requires parents to submit a signed health form from a health care provider. However, California Governor Jerry Brown added religious exemption at the last minute, which does not require parents to get a doctor s signature a move that will only allow misinformed parents to put their children and other children at risk for highly contagious, yet preventable diseases. To quote Dr. Cherry: There are some pretty dumb people out there.