Measles threaten public health


Photo courtesy of Mountain Home Air Force

Alexa Blaise Chandler, News Editor

Early January 2019, approximately 33 cases of the measles have been reported in Washington and Oregon, with another 11 suspected.

Utah is one of 18 states to allow students to attend schools without receiving their vaccinations because of parents opting out for personal reasons including moral, personal, or philosophical beliefs. This is does not include opting out for medical or religious reasons.

Because of this, Utah is a hotspot for infectious and contagious diseases as its lax vaccine exemption policies allow for diseases to be spread more easily from person to person, according to a study by Peter Hotez, a Baylor College of Medicine infectious diseases researcher, completed in early 2018.

“I’ve seen children develop diseases that are vaccine-preventable, and it’s just really horrible. To see that in this day and age — it’s absolutely painful, ” said Dr. Yvonne Maldonado, chair of the American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Infectious Diseases.

Not only are young children at risk, but anyone who is immunocompromised including the elderly, pregnant women, and anyone who has decided to stay unvaccinated.

“Measles was eliminated from the US in 2000, but it’s been allowed to return [because of] ignorant and cowardly state legislatures, and a failure by governments to mount a pro-vaccine advocacy campaign,” said Hotez.

According to a study done by Immunize Utah in 2018, which tracked vaccinations among children and adults, Utah ranked 46th in vaccination coverage, meaning that Utah citizens had a higher chance of contracting diseases because of the lack of treatable disease coverage.

With the outbreak in Washington and Oregon, it has doctors in Utah and surrounding states worrying about the spread of this deadly disease.

Doctors at Intermountain Healthcare clinics are stocking up on vaccines as the outbreak continues along the west coast. Health officials in Utah are concerned about an outbreak in Utah, as many passengers fly from either Washington or Oregon to Salt Lake City.  According to Dr. Tamara Sheffield with Intermountain Healthcare, 9 out of 10 times, someone sharing close quarters with one who has the measles virus will contract the disease.

Easiest way to prevent a further outbreak?

The Utah Department of Health ensures that “Vaccination is the best way to prevent exposure and illness.”