Public health officials in California now confirm that a major measles outbreak linked to Disney’s theme parks near Anaheim has sickened 32 people in four states. It is believed to be the largest outbreak from a single transmission chain since 2000. Making it even more outrageous is that the majority of the victims weren’t fully vaccinated.
Of the 32 people who have been sickened, 28 are from California, two are from Utah, one is from Colorado and one is from Washington. Most of them visited Disneyland and Disney California Adventure between December 15 and December 20, while the others caught the disease from contact with those who were infected. Officials across the nation are on high alert, and are trying to pin down where the infected people may have traveled. In Utah alone, officials have identified 380 people who came in contact with the two infected people from that state, and have asked most of them to self-quarantine.? For those who don’t know, people with measles become contagious long before they break out in a rash. One cough or one sneeze is enough to spread the virus.
Now here’s where this story gets hideous. Of the 28 cases in California, only three were fully vaccinated. Of the 25 who weren’t, two of them were children who are too young for the measles vaccine and depend on herd immunity for protection until they turn one year old–the age when it’s safe to receive the MMR vaccine (which also protects against mumps and rubella). The cases in Utah and Washington also involve unvaccinated people.In other words–this outbreak was completely preventable.
But that hasn’t caused the anti-vaxxer crowd any pause. Barbara Loe Fisher, president of the National Vaccine Information Center, one of the leading promoters of anti-vaxxer hoakum, says that we have the right to choose whether to get vaccinated “without being harassed, coerced, or punished for the choice you make.” Um, Barbara? When your choice puts innocent people at risk of being sickened or even killed, you deserve to be called out.
Now you’re probably wondering how Fisher can be so bullheaded even in the face of her cause being blown out of the water for at least the hundredth time over. You have to remember that most of the anti-vaxxers still believe that the MMR vaccine can cause autism. And they’ve kept it up even after the most-touted study that showed a supposed link between MMR and autism was exposed as unethical and fraudulent, and its author banned from ever practicing medicine in the UK again. In other words–no amount of data is enough for these people.
We can hope that one good thing will come out of this–finding out how measles got into Disneyland in the first place. Measles has been all but eradicated in this country; in 2000 health officials declared that the disease was no longer native to the United States. Most of the measles cases since then have been traced to people who come from areas of Europe or Southeast Asia where the disease is still a problem. Perhaps this will be an incentive for some not-so-gentle pressure on those countries to get a handle on it–and soon.
Darrell Lucus, also known as Christian Dem in NC on Daily Kos, is a radical-lefty Jesus-lover who has been blogging for change for a decade. Follow him on Twitter @DarrellLucus or connect with him on Facebook.