Measles has been in the news recently thanks to outbreaks in Washington state, New York, Japan, and other countries around the world. But what exactly is measles, and are these outbreaks a big deal? Measles is a disease that causes a rash and a high fever. According to the CDC, approximately 0.2%, or 1 out of 500 people who contract the virus eventually die from it’s effects.
While the measles virus is mostly found in the developing world due to lower vaccination rates, outbreaks are beginning to occur in the western world at an increasing rate. The MMR vaccine (Measles, Mumps, Rubella) is the most common form of inoculation against the measles virus. As more and more parents refuse to vaccinate their children ranging from religious concerns to the ludicrous idea vaccines cause autism, more and more measles outbreaks are occurring. Before the vaccine was introduced in 1963, measles killed millions of people around the world, while cases in the US were in the hundreds of thousands per year. By the 1980s, measles cases in the US had dropped to the thousands, and in 2000 the virus was considered eliminated in the US by the CDC thanks to the US’s high MMR vaccination rate.
The US’s high vaccination rate would eventually begin to drop as a 1998 medical paper falsely linked autism with the MMR vaccine. While the paper has since been redacted and the lead doctor has lost his medical license, many parents still don’t vaccinate their children due to the concern that vaccines cause autism. Since 2000, there has been increased outbreaks of measles, especially in communities with low vaccination rates. In 2014, Amish communities in Ohio had a large outbreak of around 383 cases. This past fall, New York experienced a large outbreak of at least 225 people, and the ongoing case in Vancouver, WA is somewhere above 50 people. Most of these outbreaks can be traced to people traveling to other countries where measles is still not uncommon, and coming back without realizing they’re sick. Of course most if not all of these outbreaks could have been avoided if the infected people had been vaccinated or the people they were in contact with after returning to the US were vaccinated as well.
So what are the chances that an outbreak will occur here in Colorado, or even in the Mines community? A study from the CDC found Colorado had the second lowest MMR vaccination rate of kindergarteners out of every state and Washington DC. A large reason is due to Colorado’s philosophical exemption policy, which allows for vaccine exemptions for just about any reason. This philosophical or personal exemption also applies to the Mines Campus, along
with the usual medical and religious exemptions that nearly every other state has. That being said, the school does reserve the right to quarantine or exclude any unvaccinated students in the event of a measles outbreak.
Measles outbreaks are becoming more and more common as parents refuse to vaccinate their children. If you have not received your MMR vaccine, the student health center provides this service for an additional fee.