Nasty Vaccine-Preventable Diseases are Just a Plane Ride Away

Thanks to immunizations, we are so close to eradicating diseases such as polio, measles, mumps, and pertussis that we widely regard them as a thing of the past.

Other countries are not so lucky. People living in parts of Africa, South America, Asia, and Eastern Europe do not have easy access to immunizations, and are all too aware of the devastating effects of these nasty and preventable diseases.

As our society becomes more transient and international travel rises, we create more links to non-vaccinated and possibly infected individuals. This means that, while you or your child may not actually travel to Ethiopia, she may come in contact with someone who has.

Just this week the West Seattle Herald published an article alerting the local public of possible exposure to measles. Washington King County confirmed a case of a child who became infected while traveling outside the U.S., and was contagious on the trip back home.

Most people in the exposed area have been vaccinated, so risk to the general population is low. However, Health Officials stated that “persons who are unvaccinated, pregnant women, infants less than six months of age and persons with weakened immune systems are at higher risk if exposed to measles.”

Also this month, news broke of a mumps outbreak in New Jersey and New York. Currently, the outbreak has sickened 1, 521 people; the first infected individual was an 11-year-old boy who became infected while visiting Great Britain and brought it  back to summer camp. The mumps outbreak is the worst since 2006, when there was an 11-state outbreak that sickened 2,597 people.

Parents who continue to worry about vaccinating your child please consider this: in the days before the mumps vaccine was introduced in 1967, huge waves of mumps spread across the nation every few years. Now, thankfully, we only see 387 mumps cases annually.

We’ve seen the impact of a handful of infected individuals; let this not become a regular occurrence in our children’s futures. Immunize your child. Give your child the defense she needs to stay healthy.

The diseases we thought were confined to our grandparents’ time or to a land far away are making their way to the U.S. present—and possibly to your child’s school or summer camp. How does this affect your views on immunization? Does it concern you that non-vaccinated children risk exposing themselves and at-risk (i.e. infants, pregnant women, unvaccinated, or non-immune) members of our community?

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