Monday, April 4, 2016

A Temporary School Closure Due to Measles

A single case of measles in a preschool student in California has prompted the county's Public Health Department to close the preschool for several days. In addition, the health department has informed all parents that children who are not fully vaccinated will not be allowed to return to school for an additional week and a half, even though the school will be reopened for vaccinated students.

Measles is a highly contagious disease. Although most infected individuals recover fully without incident, measles still causes an estimated 140,000 deaths worldwide per year. Health officials stress that approximately 95% of the individuals in any community need to be vaccinated in order to achieve "herd immunity", in which the disease is not able to spread rapidly throughout the community once an individual is infected. Vaccination rates are well below that number in some counties in California.

Reading between the lines, this may be a situation where the health department has exercised its authority and fired a warning shot across the bow of parents who have (so far) refused to have their kids vaccinated. California passed a law last year that requires children to be vaccinated in order to attend school (see this blog July 8, 2015). The law, which takes effect on July 1st for this year's crop of preschoolers, no longer allows for exemptions based on personal or religious beliefs. At the school in question only 43% of the children have been fully vaccinated, according to the Huffington Post. If they are not vaccinated by this Fall they will have to be home-schooled.

Anti-vaxxers may be in for a tough fight on this issue. Their main argument against vaccinations seems to have shifted recently from "vaccines cause autism" to "it's a matter of choice". But they do not have the choice to endanger the health of others, according to the State of California.

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