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Measles outbreak highlights low vaccination rates at SoCal schools

Craig Clough | January 21, 2015



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vaccine_syringe_vialsA measles outbreak that has been traced to starting at Disneyland last month has returned the issue of declining immunization rates to the headlines.

So far, the outbreak has spread to 54 people across California, at least three other states and Mexico.

Today, the Los Angels Times reported that the outbreak is the state’s worst in 15 years and that Orange County health officials ordered about two dozen high school students without proof of immunization to stay away from campus. The order came after a Huntington Beach High School student who was infected came to class.

While no reports of measles have been connected to LA Unified, the outbreak should be of concern to students and parents, as the district last year had 25 schools with vaccination rates below the recommended levels. Click here to see LA School Report‘s story from October about the low vaccination rates in LA Unified schools.

In LA Unified and elsewhere, low vaccination rates have been appearing at schools in wealthy communities where anti-vaccination beliefs — fueled by an unfounded concern that they are responsible for autism  — have spread. State law requires kindergartners to be vaccinated against nine diseases, including measles, but allows for parents to opt out if it violates their personal beliefs.

The number of parents in California who have opted out of getting their kids vaccinated has doubled in the last seven years, according to the LA Times, which also reported that measles is so infectious that a single sick person who walks into a community of completely nonimmunized people infects 12 to 18 of them.

Dr. Aaron Glatt, an infectious disease specialist and spokesman for the Infectious Diseases Society of America, told WebMD he blames the Disneyland outbreak on low vaccination rates.

“There’s only one way to prevent [measles],” Glatt said. “Vaccinate, vaccinate, vaccinate…. You really should not be allowing your children to go to school if they are not vaccinated.”

 

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