Outbreaks of Preventable Diseases are on the Rise


All across the country, outbreaks of diseases that were thought to be mostly eradicated have made resurgences. In 2000, measles was declared completely eliminated in the United States. Last year, there were 349 cases. This resurgence of the disease has been attributed to parents being able to opt out of vaccinating their children. In spring of 2017, Minneapolis had a measles outbreak, with a total of 65 confirmed cases. The majority of the cases were in Somali-American children, as the anti-vaccer movement had preached to the Somali-American community in Hennepin county that vaccines caused autism, convincing parents not to vaccinate their children. This year in Washington, there have been about 45 cases reported as officials rush to contain the virus.

On Jan. 29, a Pflugerville High School student was diagnosed with whooping cough, or pertussis. School officials are working to make sure the disease does not spread, but pertussis is highly contagious. It can be spread by coughing, sneezing, and skin-to-skin contact. Before the vaccination was created, 8,000 infants died every year from the whooping cough. Currently, the average number of deaths for infants is 20, with 15,000-50,000 cases reported each year. However, that number has slowly begun to increase in recent years. The CDC hypothesizes this rise is due to better testing and diagnosis from doctors and nurses. However, the New York Times cited a study by a Vaccine Study Center in Oakland, California that said that the new pertussis vaccine is simply less effective, although their focus is not on creating a new vaccine. Instead, they are working towards more people getting vaccinated and more frequent vaccinations.

Both measles and whooping cough can be deadly to infants, as their immune systems are not fully developed, making them unable to be vaccinated. People with severe allergies to vaccine components, pregnant women, people with weak immune systems, and those with severe illnesses are unable to get vaccinated as well, which puts them at greater risk if they come in contact with the disease they could not be vaccinated against. This includes common diseases like the annual influenza. In fact, it are those who are unable to be vaccinated who tend to have the worse symptoms and end up being hospitalized.

“I already have a pretty bad immune system to start with, so I was a pretty easy target for the flu,” Erika Houser ‘19 said. “I got sick last Monday and was out the whole week, and I felt absolutely miserable. It’s already bad having to miss school, but when your body can’t even function normally, it makes it a whole lot worse. But I’m overall still grateful that my case wasn’t any worse, because I get the flu shot every year and even though I still got sick, I know that the shot helped make the symptoms as minimal as possible.”

For this flu season, less than 60 percent of children and less than 50 percent of adults have been administered the flu vaccine. The lower the rates of vaccination, the lower the success rate of the vaccine will be. This means that when fewer people get vaccinated, there will be fewer of those vaccinated who will not get the flu this year. Essentially, the more people who are vaccinated, the less people there are who have to miss a week of school or work from a preventable disease.

From Jan. 31 to Feb. 1, Lago Vista ISD will be closed due to the growing number of influenza cases in the district. McDade ISD in Bastrop county had to close all of its schools from January 24-25 for a similar reason. Across the country, school districts have had to close for up to five days due to influenza outbreaks.

Last year, flu season peaked in Jan. and Feb. of 2018. If you are over the age of 6 months, not pregnant, have never had Gullain-Barré syndrome (GBS), and don’t have any severe allergies to components of the flu vaccine or eggs, which are used to make the vaccine, please get your flu vaccine, and stay up to date on all your vaccinations. Getting vaccinated helps more than just yourself: it helps everyone you come in contact with. Go to the CDC website or talk to your doctor for more information.