Latest Mumps, Measles Strains Likely Imports

Screen shot of the WHO's video for World Vaccination Week.
Screen shot of the WHO's video for World Vaccination Week.
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Public health officials in central Ohio now say there are 295 confirmed cases of the mumps in an outbreak that now makes up about three-quarters of all reported mumps cases nationwide. The vast majority of those are connected to Ohio State University, but other schools in the region are on-guard for cases to crop up. University administrators, in particular, are reviewing the situation...the vaccine for Mumps, Measles and Rubella is not required for students entering Ohio colleges. Central Ohio also saw an outbreak of measles in Amish country, recently. It happens to be the World Health Organization's World Vaccination Week. Ideastream's Tony Ganzer spoke with the WHO's regional deputy director Dr. Jon Andrus about recent outbreaks of these illnesses, the native versions of which were largely beaten back in our hemisphere. He says he's not surprised diseases like the measles are back.

ANDRUS: “Why we’re not surprised is because, as long as the virus is circulating anywhere else in the world it’s only a plane-ride away. Tomorrow we’ll have another importation somewhere. It’s not a question of if it’s going to happen, it’s just a matter of when. In the United States, as a matter of fact, 10-15 years ago all the cases were usually due to importations from South America, whereas now most of them, surprisingly, are coming from Europe.”

GANZER: “I know there’s been a large movement among some folks who either choose not to be vaccinated, or are waiting to be vaccinated. Can we not draw a straight line between no vaccinations and these outbreaks? Is it more nuanced than that?”

ANDRUS: “Most of the information confirms it is not a problem with the vaccine, it’s a problem with people being vaccinated, in the United States. We don’t see it as much in Latin America. In Latin America we see a higher degree of vaccination acceptance, there is culture of prevention, there is a very high political commitment. We don’t see the anti-vaccine movement that we see in the United States. Measles is the Latin term that means miserable. There are highly dangerous adverse events—you child could go blind in the case if the child has a Vitamin A deficiency, for example. So it’s not a benign disease, and fortunately we have this highly preventive, effective, safe vaccine.”

“But as the instance goes down, people forget that measles is miserable, that measles can be a killer. People forget about that, and so ‘why should I vaccinate my child?’ Well, the adverse consequence of that is what you’re experiencing, these large outbreaks.”

“It’s interesting that it’s come into the community that for religious reasons it does not accept the vaccine. And that is an unfortunate and highly challenging issue for public health providers. The last three polio outbreaks in the United States in the 1970s occurred because of the virus’ entry into religious communities that refused vaccination, and then the virus spread out beyond these communities and caused very large outbreaks. ”

GANZER: “Is it fair to say the vaccine is not maybe an antidote, but it does leave you better off?”

ANDRUS: “The vaccine is clearly one of the most cost-effective medical interventions that medical science has to offer. I always compare it to a guard rail on a very sharp curve. The guard rail was put there because, maybe a hundred people a year were killed going off the sharp curve. So you put the guard rail up, and you have a few injuries, but people are no longer dying—the guard rail being the vaccine.”

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