Jan 20, 2015 09:56 PM EST
Disneyland may be the place where dreams come true, but it can also be the place where pandemics incubate. Over the holiday season, Disneyland was ground-zero for a now widespread measles outbreak. And since this virus is mostly preventable by early vaccination, the measles outbreak has sparked both conversation and controversy about the current state of vaccinations in the United States.
As of Monday Jan. 19, 52 cases of measles have been reported. And the virus has even managed to jump borders, when a 22-month-old girl from Mexico recently began expressing measles-like symptoms after their family returned from vacation at the California theme park.
Robert Glatter, an emergency physician at New York's Lenox Hill Hospital, says that this Disneyland outbreak, which has spread quickly since initial detection "has the potential to be develop into one of the worst outbreaks since 1989."
Measles, which in most part can be prevented by early vaccination, has been proven time-and-time again to be especially lethal to children under the age of five. Presenting itself in the form of a whole-body skin rash and high-grade fever, measles deaths are often the result of symptomatic complications such as pnemonia . However, the virus can still cause blindness, deafness, and other severe aliments when death does not occur.
Measles was, at one time in our history, a global pandemic that took 2.6 million lives annually. But, with the invention and implementation of a vaccine in the 1980's, death rates have dropped drastically with some estimates putting the decrease in global fatalities by 75% post-vaccine. Granted, no vaccine is 100% effective, however they do allow the body to build-up a strong immunity to the vaccinated virus, protecting the individual form communicable exposure.
And, with this possible impending epidemic, the unvaccinated movement is running over a few speed bumps. Many soon-to-be parents opt to not vaccinate their children, believing that vaccines impair development and cognitive functions later in life; little-to-no-data exists on the legitimacy behind some of the claims. However, given the alternative of highly communicable pandemics, vaccination would seem to be an appropriate-and responsible-medical practice.
"We can't forget that we have responsibility for our community," Seattle-based pediatrician, Su Swanson says. "Not only are unvaccinated children at risk for measles right now, we have to remember that they are also at risk for spreading it, too."
Measles can be transmitted by both airborne and surface-level exchanges. Health officials suggest that if you were a guest of Disneyland recently and begin to express symptoms, to consult with a physician immediately. And if you suspect you may become infected, wash your hands frequently and sterilize surfaces as an added precaution.
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