Rising Rates of Measles, Mumps and Pertussis of Great Concern.
May 18, 2010

By Christine Vara
Last month I posted an article that discussed the spread of measles as a result of low immunization rates.  One reference I made was in the case of young boy who traveled home to San Diego from a trip to Switzerland and subsequently exposed 839 people to the infection.   Another article by Amy Tuteur, MD of the SkepticalOB blog, expanded on this case in her post entitled “How Vaccine Rejectionists Hurt the Rest of Us” .  She makes a clear correlation to the rising rate of disease with the choices of some to forego vaccination.  The reality is that many diseases that we vaccinate against will continue to present a risk to our society if people continue to refrain from receiving the suggested immunizations. 
Since I posted the original piece regarding measles, I continue to read reports each week that indicate more of the same – higher rates of disease linked to unvaccinated children.  On the one hand, I am concerned about these specific examples of measles, mumps, and pertussis (or whooping cough).  On the other hand, I am encouraged that the media is attempting to spread the word regarding the risks and suggesting precautionary measures be taken.  Amazingly, the public health agencies are there to investigate and track these diseases in an effort to contain them.   
Just last week vcstar.com published an article with news that local whooping cough cases in Ventura County have more than quadrupled over the past year.  Although the California Department of Public Health stopped short of calling it an epidemic, they issued an April news release saying reported pertussis cases increased by more than 50 percent in California in the first quarter of 2010 compared with the same period of 2009.  Sadly two infants have died as a result.  The article took the time to explain the importance of receiving childhood vaccinations and booster shots for adolescents and adults in an attempt to prevent further disease. 
Sunday, an article posted from the LA Times went into great detail to explain how an East Coast outbreak of mumps has spread to Quebec and now LA county.  The outbreak began in June 2009 when an unvaccinated 11-year-old boy visited Britain, where mumps outbreaks remain high.  He then attended a summer camp for Jewish boys in New York where the disease was unknowingly transmitted to other campers.  According to the article, the New York State Department of Health has indicated that there have been more than 2,800 confirmed and probable mumps cases in New York and 315 in New Jersey as a result.  The outbreak is also linked to 20 mumps cases in Quebec, and to more than 2,600 infected in Israel.  Now, in Los Angeles, nine reported cases are believed to be linked and the media attention is highlighting the concern. 
Then yesterday I read an Omaha.com article that included a warning from the Douglas County Health Department in Omaha which cautioned people that a visitor had been diagnosed with measles.   I was impressed that they reported the specific days that the visitor was contagious and what locations were of concern.  The article went so far as to pinpoint exact exhibits within the local zoo, a specific mass at the Catholic church, as well as the time and location of other possible public exposure at various retail establishments.  These details, along with the media’s assistance in getting the news out to the public, will hopefully help to contain the spread of disease there. 
If these examples prove anything, it is that we live in a global community.  Some people may argue that it is unnecessary to vaccinate against these diseases – that it is unlikely to contract them and that they are not a serious health risk.  However, one must only read the news to understand that these diseases are becoming more prominent because there are people who choose not to vaccinate.  My hope is that these unfortunate stories, broadcast throughout various media forums,  will help to ensure that a large majority of our society will remain vigilant and continue to choose immunizations as an effective means of protection.  Hopefully, people will be educated enough to take the steps necessary to protect themselves and others.  One can start by have a conversation with their physician or by referencing the various resources listed on the Vaccinate Your Baby site.  If you should have any other information regarding this subject, please share in the comments below.    


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