Measles cases confirmed in Palatine

Naman Agarwal, Staff Writer

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In a case that appears to be connected to an ongoing outbreak originating in Disneyland in California, five infants were diagnosed with measles at a KinderCare Learning Center in Palatine on Thursday. The California outbreak is the source of over one hundred reported cases in fifteen states since the beginning of January.

Measles is a highly contagious viral infection with symptoms including fever, coughing and a distinct full-body rash. The virus remains active for up to two hours after it becomes airborne, making it more contagious than the flu, mumps and ebola. Complications, arising in 30 percent of patients, include ear infections, diarrhea and in rare cases, pneumonia, encephalitis and even death.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that the majority of the measles cases were unvaccinated people, since the vaccine is 97 percent effective. People have avoided the vaccination due to misinformation about the medication based on former doctor Andrew Wakefield’s famous 1998 study linking the measles vaccine to autism. The study was proved fraudulent, and Wakefield was stripped of his medical license. However, the faulty research still has strong followings in communities, and five percent of children in the United States are currently unvaccinated, according to the New York Times.

The vaccine is not administered to infants and those with immunocompromising disorders such as some cancers and HIV due to their temporary or defunct immune responses. People who are ineligible to receive vaccines rely on herd immunity to protect them from the disease, which is the concept that a disease will be contained in a community where the majority is immunized—meaning that people unable to gain protection from vaccines will never be exposed to the disease in the first place.

Science teacher Brad Graba explains how people who do not vaccinate risk the health of the community.

“When people don’t vaccinate, then they endanger not only themselves, but also the entire community,” Graba said. “The individuals that cannot receive vaccines for medical reasons become at risk for the infection as well.”

Unvaccinated persons present a concern for not just the individuals choosing not to vaccinate, but all Americans. In light of the recent outbreak, politicians are taking stances on vaccination, creating what seems to be the birth of a 2016 talking point.

Obama told NBC that he has full confidence in the pro-vaccination movement.

“A major success of our civilization (is) the ability to prevent diseases that in the past have devastated folks,” Obama said. “And measles is preventable. There is every reason to get vaccinated, but there aren’t reasons to not.”

Sophomore Emma Liu believes that the government should take action to enforce vaccination.

“With the resurgence of preventable diseases, there definitely needs to be new legislation to enforce vaccination. We need to inform anti-vaccinators that their decision could cost society,” Liu said.

Obama was also supported by Twitter quips from fellow Democrat Hillary Clinton but some Republicans, including Chris Christie and Rand Paul, disputed his claim with anti-vaccine statements. Christie stated only that parents should have a choice in vaccination, but Paul cited Wakefield’s study in an anti-vaccination comment to CNBC.

“I have heard of many tragic cases of walking, talking normal children who wound up with profound mental disorders after vaccines,” Paul said.

Senior Jake Kazmierczak believes that citizens should have the right to refuse vaccinations provided that they have reasonable health concerns.

“I think that not immunizing your child is endangering your child and other children, but at the same time, we as citizens need to have the right to refuse treatment if we have reasonable fears about the safety and benefits of the treatment,” Kazmierczak said. “In the case of the measles vaccine, the fear of autism is not reasonable because autism’s connection with vaccines is bogus science. There’s no evidence for, and a lot of evidence against.”

What it seems the public is primarily concerned about is the health of their children. Regarding the Palatine outbreak, Dr. Terry Mason, the Chief Operating Officer at the Cook County Department of Public Health expects that measles will continue to spread, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.

“There will be more cases. We shouldn’t be surprised about that,” Mason said. ”The cat is out of the bag.”

Mason did emphasize, however, that the number of cases will be largely mitigated, due to the high vaccination rate in the northwest suburban community.