Last summer, Governor Dennis Daugaard expressed concern that the 21 vaccinated and screened child refugees placed in South Dakota posed a health risk to our fair state. Governor Daugaard should have been more concerned about the health risk posed by local yokels not getting their shots. Thanks to the vaccination paranoia promoted by certain members of the Governor's party, such shot-resistors have brought South Dakota its first measles outbreak since 1997:
According to health officials, the six people that have been diagnosed with the virus are in Davison County, and are made up of three adults and three children. The children range from under the age of five all the way to teenagers.
Health officials say they are all part of an extended family that came together for a holiday celebration. None of them are vaccinated against the measles.
...Several other people are showing symptoms and are being closely monitored. The state is also in contact with about 50 other people who may have been exposed to the virus [Rachel Skytta, "Six Confirmed Cases of Measles in SD," KDLT-TV, 2014.12.31].
South Dakota actually leads its federal Health and Human Services region in MMR vaccination rates at 93.1%. The national rate is 91.1%. Our neighbors in Minnesota are only at 90.8%. (Michele Bachmann is apparently infectious.) Think of those numbers this way: if one of those infected Davison County anti-vacciners walked through the food court at the Mall of America and sneezed a few times, he could have infected one out of eleven people.
The state Department of Health says measles causes brain damage in one out of a thousand cases and death in three out of a thousand cases. SDDoH says measles is highly contagious and can spread by direct contact or by airborne droplets. It is thus less deadly but more contagious than Ebola, which had Senator John Thune calling for a big-government travel ban to prevent the remote possibility of that disease spreading. Fellow blogger Larry Kurtz wonders why Thune is not now calling for a travel ban on Mitchell, but that wondering expects of our Senator logic and consistency, things to which Republicans have developed a strong herd immunity.
The Affordable Care Act has required insurance companies to cover vaccines for four years. The measly Davison County family could have taken advantage of their health plan to get their shots at no additional costs. Instead, they've chosen to become a hazard to people with allergies or compromised immune systems (like kids with leukemia undergoing chemotherapy) who cannot get the MMR shot.
Vaccination rates have been declining nationwide based on no solid scientific evidence of vaccine harms. At the same time, outbreaks of measles and other diseases for which we have vaccines are rising. We can go back to the bad old days when nearly everyone got measles, or we can knock off the vaccine paranoia and get our shots.
And for now, put off that trip to the Corn Palace.
Related Reading: Alas, I'm probably just making matters worse: recent research shows that public health messages promoting vaccines and efforts to debunk anti-vaccine myths only strengthen parents' resolve not to vaccinate their kids. There's just no communicating with some people. Might as well ship them to the FEMA camps....