February 24th, 2019 Anaamika Campeau
Measles Outbreak in Washington State
The past year has seen a disturbing uptick in the number of cases of measles in the United States. A devastating disease, measles was thought to have been largely eradicated in America following the widespread implementation of vaccination protocols in the 1960s. However, popular doubt and mistrust surrounding vaccinations has recently led to an increase in the rates of parents either delaying or refusing to vaccinate their children. Measles immunization is routinely administered as part of the MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella) vaccine after the ninth month of a baby's life. Before the vaccine can be administered, babies are protected from measles through herd immunity. As fewer parents opt to vaccinate their children, the risk of an unvaccinated infant being exposed to the measles increases. Washington state is in the midst of a measles outbreak borne of reduced herd immunity. In total, there have been 66 reported cases of measles radiating from Clark county in the southeastern part of the state. The majority of those infected are under 10 years old. The outbreak has prompted the governor of Washington, Jay Inslee, to declare a state of emergency regarding this issue. While legislation is under consideration to make measles immunization compulsory, the core issue of generalized mistrust towards vaccines represents a larger problem. The time of large measles outbreaks, where hundreds of thousands of people contracted the disease, are an increasingly distant memory. To avoid future outbreaks, the general population must trust the science behind vaccines, and understand their role in fostering our current standards of health and living.