Just when we thought measles, whooping cough and polio no longer pose a threat in the U.S., a dramatic spike in the number of cases for all three illnesses is causing concern among public health officials, who worry we may be witnessing a resurgence, despite the availability of preventative vaccines.
In Orange County, 42 cases of whooping cough, mostly among school-aged children, have been confirmed since January of this year. A similar outbreak of the illness, also known as pertussis, is occurring in Long Beach.
An outbreak of polio-like cases among children, 20 in the last two years, has not yet been declared an emergency, but health officials are watching the cases closely, noting that while the illness has caused paralysis, it is not polio.
In the last two months, 88 cases of measles have been reported in the U.S., 49 in California alone.
While it may seem that the numbers are small given the size of the population, what is worrisome is the fact that it appears the illnesses are being spread by people who are not vaccinated.
We know that many people may think the large number of immigrants in Southern California is to blame for the spread of the illnesses, but that is not necessarily true. In fact, several experts in the field have pointed to the growing anti-vaccination movement as the biggest major concern.
They rightly note that much of the population, particularly those born after the 1950s have no memory of the devastation the diseases caused before vaccines became widely available.
We are seeing more parents, concerned that vaccines are responsible for the rise in the number of children with autism, choosing to not immunize their children.
While we respect their right to choose not to have their child vaccinated, we are concerned their choice is poses a threat to all children and adults in the community.
How does a community protect itself from the spread of a communicable disease threat without interfering with parents’ rights? That’s a hard one to answer, but a question we should all think seriously about.
These are difficult issues to solve, but in our view, if we are to protect ourselves from future epidemics caused by non-immunized children, we need to find a solution.
It seems to us the fact that millions of children have been immunized to protect them from these potentially deadly diseases without becoming autistic, bodes well for continuing to view vaccines as a life saving requirement for all children.
We don’t want to return to the days when whooping cough and measles killed many babies, when entire hospital wards with respirators are needed to help children breath, or to see large numbers of paralysis caused by polio.
Many parents have never experienced the fear and pain caused by measles, diphtheria whooping cough and polio, and that’s a blessing.
Are we just using scare tactics? Maybe. But given the current set of circumstances, we should all be a little afraid.
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