It starts with white spots on the inside of the mouth. Next, a rash appears, spreading from the face and hairline to the rest of the body. A fever of 104 degrees Fahrenheit kicks in; a runny nose, coughing and pink eye ensue. Some of these symptoms can occur within two days of exposure, and all can occur within two weeks.
Further complications can arise from these symptoms, including ear infections, pneumonia and in some cases, death.
Since the beginning of this year, 1,000 cases of the measles have been reported in the United States, making this outbreak the second highest since 2000, when the disease was eradicated. Two cases have now been reported in northern Idaho.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, most of the original measles cases this year started with individuals who have not been vaccinated or do not have proof of immunization.
Measles can be prevented with the MMR vaccination, which also prevents the mumps and rubella diseases.
We as the Scroll editorial staff believe that modern medicine is inspired by God and needs to be used to heal and stop preventable diseases. We also believe that these resources should be shared with everyone.
Immunization is an individual choice with a macro effect. We are responsible to work as a team to protect our community. In Rexburg, where our town consists of many families with young children, it is even more important to keep up to date with our vaccines.
In the United States, there has been an increase in vaccine refusal from individuals and families. More often than not, those who refuse vaccines are clustered in similar geographic locations, which can lead to disease outbreaks in those areas.
Measles, one of the most infectious viruses known, in general, will affect 90% of unimmunized individuals who are exposed to it. According to an academic journal written by the New England Journal of Medicine, children who are exempt from vaccinations that could prevent the disease are 35 times as likely to contract measles as nonexempt children.
Idaho law allows immunization exemptions for religious, medical and philosophical reasons. The choice then becomes ours. Do we increase the risks, or do we take the preventative measures?
The MMR vaccination used to immunize us against the measles is 95% effective. The Idaho Immunization Program provides this vaccine for free to children under the age of 18. Adults over the age of 18 can also receive vaccines and booster shots at a number of locations which include: private doctor offices, pharmacies, workplaces, community health clinics, local public health districts or other community locations. For those in Rexburg, Walgreens works with most insurance companies to provide vaccinations. All you have to do is walk in.
With many medical resources readily available in the United States, why would anyone refuse something that combats a highly contagious disease?
The most common reason is that it might cause individual harm. From a national survey done in 2001 to 2002, it was found that only 1% of the United States population consider vaccinations unsafe. Though the impact of “anti-vaxxers” seems small, their potential effect is substantial. Larger than the 1% is the number of people who do not keep up-to-date on their own vaccinations, creating an even greater risk for their community to become infected.
Measles vaccines generally last about 20 years, but other vaccines need boosters. Make the responsible choice to know when and what you need. Medical providers should have your immunization records.
“High vaccine coverage, particularly at the community level, is extremely important for children who cannot be vaccinated, including children who have medical contraindications to vaccination and those who are too young to be vaccinated,” according to the New England Journal of Medicine. “These groups are often more susceptible to the complications of infectious diseases than the general population of children and depend on the protection provided by the vaccination of children in their environs.”
Still, communities around the world do not have the same resources we do.
110,000 people died worldwide from the measles in 2017, mostly from countries that do not have consistent access to vaccinations. The death count for 2019 is currently unknown, but rates of infection continue to increase globally.
The story of Helen, from the Philippines, is just one example of the tragedies caused by viruses happening around the world on a daily basis. They do not have the same choice we do: to vaccinate or not vaccinate. If immunizations are not provided for their community, they simply hope to survive the potential disease outbreak.
We can work together to help other communities who do not share our same medical privileges. One way is through the vaccination program run by LDS Charities, which partners with other organizations to provide vaccinations to the needy. Individuals and families can donate their time, money and expertise to any number of vaccine initiatives, including the measles initiative.
In a letter given by the First Presidency in 1978, they refer to these diseases as “deadly enemies” whose potential threat can be erased through preventable immunizations.
“We urge members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to protect their own children through immunization,” according to the letter. “Then they may wish to join other public-spirited citizens in efforts to eradicate ignorance and apathy that have caused the disturbingly low levels of childhood immunization.”
Now is the time to prepare with modern medicine, to prevent the preventable and to help others do the same.