While tetanus resurfaced in Oregon, an outbreak of measles has been reported across the U.S. Over 700 people nationwide have been afflicted with measles this year; over 70% of cases were in unvaccinated patients. This is the greatest number of cases reported in the U.S. since 1994. Measles was declared eliminated in 2000.
“The general public has become complacent about one of the greatest public health achievements in history,” says Judith Guzman-Cottrill, DO, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at Oregon Health & Science University.
In New York, which has been hit particularly hard by the measles outbreak, the state board of health voted unanimously to adopt a resolution ordering every adult and child who lives, works or resides in specific zip codes to be vaccinated for measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR). Those who don’t comply will be fined $1,000.
The decision to not vaccinate does not only affect the unvaccinated children but also others around them, Dr. Guzman-Cottrill reminds patients.
On average, unvaccinated children are 35 times more likely to contract measles than those who are vaccinated, and if one person has measles, up to 90% of the people close to that person who are not immune will also become infected.
On the front lines
For physicians who treat unvaccinated patients, witnessing the suffering that could have been prevented is especially difficult. AOA policy supports CDC vaccination protocols and encourages physicians to immunize patients of all ages when appropriate.