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Six Measles Cases Around Mitchell; State Watching 50 More for Infection

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....


  1. Nick Nemec 2015.01.01

    I got into an online debate with a nest of anti-vaxers yesterday. One woman claimed her daughter didn't need a vaccination because she was "advanced" for her age. I replied that while her kid was no doubt smart, being smart doesn't confer immunity to disease unless you are smart enough to get vaccinated. I was roundly attacked by all the other anti-science types spouting their "natural" philosophies.

  2. larry kurtz 2015.01.01

    I confess to being a bit of an agnostic on vaccinations. As a military brat i have been shot for dozens of diseases and have some concerns about what my daughters inherited through genetic mutations because little research is done on the effects. Veterans committing suicide seem to be linked not just to PTSD but to injections of untested drugs designed to ward off infections.

  3. Lynn 2015.01.01

    This is so frustrating! There are diseases that could of been wiped off the face of the Earth if it were not for various conspiracy theorists that are widespread or some isolated to a certain region where they think for example vaccinations are a secret sterilization or some other nefarious program.

    A former supervisor and a friend who has a large family both refuse to vaccinate feeling that their immune system will get stronger being exposed to various viruses and bacteria but they not only put themselves at risk but those around them especially those that have compromised immune systems.

    I sure hope these people who came down with the measles in Davison County have insurance or the financial ability to pay their own medical expenses so we as taxpayers don't get stuck paying for this. What a walking and breathing liability!

  4. Owen 2015.01.01

    I have another question this Cory. My wife and I were wondering if the names of these people should be released? I know there is a privacy concern but should people know if they've had contact with these people?
    I doubt if they can remember all the people they've had contact with. I'm not advocating wither way. Just thought I'd throw it out for discussion.

  5. caheidelberger Post author | 2015.01.01

    Larry, it's one thing to question all the crap the military pumps into its soldiers. It's another to extend that suspicion to the pretty well-tested vaccinations that, as Lynn notes, have eliminated or almost eliminated certain diseases.

    Besides, isn't Monsanto's Roundup the real cause of autism?

  6. caheidelberger Post author | 2015.01.01

    Interesting question, Owen! We all have medical privacy rights. Those rights were somehow waived in coverage of the Ebola case in Texas. State health officials have the authority to disclose patient information to people who may have been exposed, but apparently not to the media. But how are you supposed to know if the guy you had lunch with at the café last week is on the measles list unless state epidemiologist Lon Kightlinger calls you up and says, "Hey, watch for spots"?

    Responding to questions about HIPAA and Ebola, the HHS Office of Civil Rights said in November, "The protections of the privacy rule are not set aside during an emergency."

    But we can hope that the anti-vacciners just across your county line have overcome their selfishness just enough to quarantine themselves.

  7. larry kurtz 2015.01.01

    Cory, have you and Owen answered your question? How are these measles cases any different than sex offender registries?

  8. caheidelberger Post author | 2015.01.01

    No, I don't think we have answered it. The comparison to the sex offender registry is interesting: if we can strip privacy rights from convicted felons because they pose a risk to public safety, can we do the same to sick citizens who pose a public health risk?

    Safety versus liberty—a classic debate to start the new year!

  9. larry kurtz 2015.01.01

    Military personnel and those convicted of crimes surrender some rights while private individuals have more choices to make decisions based on principle. The fact remains that effects of vaccinations on subsequent generations is largely unknown.

  10. JeniW 2015.01.01

    All drugs, including vaccines have side effects, some are desirable some are not. The question always leads back to risks/benefits

    Larry, the question you raised about the effects of vaccines on the subsequent generations, is the same questions I have about men and women who consume recreational drugs such as alcohol, pot (please, everyone do not tell me that pot is completely safe,) crack meth, and etc.

    At times I have wondered about my father's consumption of alcohol contributing to my sibling's and mine genetic screw-ups.

  11. Disgusted Dakotan 2015.01.01

    We have roughly 12 million people who have come here illegally, most of whom have not had vaccinations, and we wonder when these pockets of communicable diseases pop up in communities with 99.9% vaccination rates?

    Legal immigrants have to have their vaccinations up to date before they are allowed entry.

    Chalk this up to another cost of crony-capitalism.

  12. Owen 2015.01.01

    DD I think its more of a problem with people who object for religious reasons. Actually its even worse because these people know better but prefer to be selfish.
    Not every problem in this country is due to illegal immigrants

  13. Lynn 2015.01.01


    The people I have known or presently know who chose not to vaccinate themselves or their families were because of the theory of they can have a stronger immune system being exposed to everything out there in the natural environment or fear of Autism brought on by public figures like Jenny McCarthy. Religion had nothing to do with their choice though I'm sure there are a few out there.

    Whooping cough and other illnesses are making a comeback because of those who chose not to vaccinate and it sound like from today's ArgusSanford article that quoted a state health official saying " This isn’t finished by a long shot.”

  14. Steve Sibson 2015.01.01

    "Interesting question, Owen! We all have medical privacy rights."

    No, it is a silly question. If you and your kids have taken the shot, then there is no worry.

    So what is next for you New Age Theocrats, running all of us through cattle chutes to get our required shots?

  15. Steve Sibson 2015.01.01

    Anybody hear if the teacher from Harford who died from the flu took the flu shot?

  16. Disgusted Dakotan 2015.01.01

    @larry You need to look at the rates circa 1980-1989, which is part of the generations that are here illegally now.

  17. JeniW 2015.01.01

    As I have mentioned on other threads, vaccines do not prevent people from acquiring the disease for which the vaccine is for, it reduces the RISK of acquiring the disease.

    Just as seat belts in vehicles do not prevent all injuries or deaths, seat belts reduce the RISK of injuries, death, or severity of the injuries.

    The gentleman in Hartford died from a heart attack as a complication of the flu. The flu vaccine does not prevent getting the flu, it reduces the RISK, or severity, plus the gentleman may have had a different form of flu for which there is not a vaccine for, or just simply did not work for him as well as hoped.

    Steve S. you must not be a Baby Boomer, or grew up in a small community. During the polio epidemic children were not herded through cattle chutes, but did go through long lines to get the polio vaccine. No kid died while waiting in line. A lot of tears and cries for sure, but no deaths from waiting in line.

    One of my classmates died from the complication of polio. For her the vaccine came too late. Those who survived polio now have Post Polio Syndrome. PPS is like Shingles, it is Chicken Pox virus that is dormant until later in life.

    I am glad that siblings, my classmates, and I all went through the lines to receive the polio vaccine. It reduced our risk of getting polio in the first place, and thus not having PPS in our older years.

    Not to worry Steve S., no one is going to hold a cattle prod to you to force you to get a vaccine, but if you start having symptoms of the flu or some other disease, please stay home, and hope that none of your family gets the disease from you.

  18. caheidelberger Post author | 2015.01.01

    Hold on, DD: do you have some intel that says the measles cases are among illegal immigrants?

  19. caheidelberger Post author | 2015.01.01

    DD, the KDLT report said three of the six cases are among children, ages 5 thru teens. Recent rates are relevant.

    As I review the data Larry provides (there's a phrase we don't hear often enough), I see Honduras and Mexico have maintained vaccination rates at 95% or better almost every year since 1998, with a strong dip in just the last couple years. Go back to the 1980s, and yes, you do find rates in Honduras down in the 30s and Mexico down in the 20s.

    But in three of the last four years, Mexico and Honduras have had higher measles immunization rates than the U.S., meaning that our own kids are at greater risk than little ones from down south.

    Larry + data = danger!

  20. Steve Sibson 2015.01.01

    "it reduces the RISK"

    It also increases risk.

  21. Vickie 2015.01.01

    We'll just make this really simple for those that just don't get it: If YOU choose to be sick,then go ahead and get sick...stay sick. I don't care. But keep yourself isolated from the rest of the community that does not want your crud.

  22. Nick Nemec 2015.01.01

    Steve Sibson obviously never served in the military. As far as I know everyone who served, at least from my era, got a large battery of inoculations early in their enlistment. The last thing Uncle Sam wants is to run the risk of a highly trained military unit rendered combat ineffective by some, easily prevented by inoculation, disease raging through the barracks.

  23. JeniW 2015.01.01

    Steve S., it certainly does increase the risk if people think that vaccines will prevent getting the disease it is designed for, and decide to be stupid or careless about washing their hands, and other preventive behaviors.

    Just as there is an increase of risk injuries or death when people think seat belts will prevent them from dying so they drive at a high rate of speed on an ice covered road.

    As I mentioned, no one will force you to receive a vaccine, but if you start having symptoms of an illness, stay home, and hope that no one living with you will get the disease that you have. For those living with you, please have them stay home too, no one wants yours or their "bugs."

  24. mike from iowa 2015.01.01

    christianity,as practiced by wingnuts,is not a religion. It is a political philosophy that mocks everything jesus stood for.

  25. Owen 2015.01.01

    I wasn't condemning people's religious belief. I do have a problem when what they believe has an effect on my well being or my kids or grand kids.

    I find it disappointing that so-called Christians want to send back kids to Central America that will be killed when they get back instead of embracing these children

  26. JeniW 2015.01.01

    There are religions that are against medical care/medication, but when it puts people at risk, it becomes a different game.

    Some decades ago in California there was a girl who had "ring-worm" (a fungus infection) on her forehead. Her parents did not believe in administering medication as per their religion, so the ring-worm grew.

    Ringworm is infectious meaning that it can be easily spread to others. The school she was attending refused to let her attend classes while she had that infection. The infection continued to grow until her parents sought treatment.

    As adults, people can refuse medical treatment for whatever reason they want, but children do not have that choice, they are at the mercy of the adults in their life.

    Should have the girl's parents continued to refuse treatment for their daughter?

  27. Joan Brown 2015.01.01

    This is going to sound really nasty, but I hope the adults that have the measles are horribly sick. I was 17 when I got them, back before there was a vaccine and I was horribly sick, because as a whole the older you are when you get these childhood diseases the sicker you get. I missed two weeks of school. I know I have a daughter whose kids were all vaccinated, as were mine, and she blames the vaccines for the fact that her oldest son is autistic, she has been listening to Jenny McCarthy too much, instead of listening to experts. My three year old great grandson hasn't had any vaccines and that bothers me. It amazes me how much celebrities think they know about medicine.

  28. Nick Nemec 2015.01.01

    The problem with religious exemptions is anyone can claim their opposition is due to a religious exemption. The opposition might not be religious in nature but they can claim it is and since our country rightly allows no religious tests we must take them at their word. Religious opposition is an easy catch all claim for every kook and anti-science nut out there.

  29. 96Tears 2015.01.01

    Exemptions? Here in South Dakota, the Attorney General will exempt criminals from prosecution as long as they are on the ballot or may intend to be on the ballot.

    Nick, you know as a Marine that two-thirds of the casualties of the Civil War died from disease, infections and unhealthy camp conditions. That's probably why the U.S. military has a healthy respect for vaccines to prevent more casualties.

    As to the religious wingnuts who ignore science and reality at their own peril, so be it. Time to thin out the herd of its stupid and reckless members.

  30. Deb Geelsdottir 2015.01.01

    "Michele Bachmann is apparently infectious."

    Yes she is. Her replacement in Congress, Republican Tom Emmer, is marginally less extreme than Ms. Bachmann. He is building his D.C. staff with with former Bachmannians. Thus does Minnesota's 6th district, heavily Republican, remain infected. However, that wacko district is sufficiently quarantined so their bizarre disease is not spread.

  31. grudznick 2015.01.01

    Mr. 96tears, I think there is a lot of thinning to go on. Whackos and lazies both.

  32. mike from iowa 2015.01.02

    Deb-at least you won't need to change the motto on your license plates. It is still 10,000 lakes and a flake.

  33. larry kurtz 2015.01.02

    Good find, Lynn. The FLDS cult in the Black Hills is in the news again: they abhor vaccinations.

  34. Lynn 2015.01.02

    Holy Crap! I didn't realize what I stumbled on to until I followed the links at the bottom of the Hubbs page. Isn't kind of ironic with 4 DUI's here in South Dakota and a staunch crusade against vaccination. You have one person that while driving their car DUI has a chance of hitting another car, pedestrian or cyclist. Then you have another person or the same who chooses not to get vaccinated in which both scenarios can cause death, permanent damage and injury upon others.

  35. Steve Sibson 2015.01.02

    So Lynn, are you saying those who don't get vaccinated should be charged with a crime?

  36. larry kurtz 2015.01.02

    So, Sibby: are you saying vaccinations aren't allowed by the US Constitution but toddlers are allowed to shoot their mothers at Walmart?

  37. larry kurtz 2015.01.02

    Steve: is Sibby Online still blocking you?

  38. Danno 2015.01.02


    Amazing. Reminds me of the posts on the Journal page when the smoking ban was being debated, back when it was worth trying to post there. Most of the loudest were those who had the least knowledge about what they were discussing.

  39. larry kurtz 2015.01.02

    of course tupper has an editor correcting his syntax.

  40. Douglas Wiken 2015.01.02

    The "research" that tied problems to vaccines was flawed and biased. Follow up studies with controls and samples large enough to be statistically useful failed to show any connection between vaccines and other diseases or effects. The doctor who did the "research" has been roundly condemned by the medical professions.

    I see no reason to keep the names of those with measles from being public. Cory just published from a list of those with delinquent taxes. The photos and names of those who are sick should be published as a matter of public safety and public health.

    The comment related to publishing names and locations of sex offenders is relevant. That is both a matter of public safety and public health and the names and locations of those with measles are too. One of my uncles had "German measles" as a child. He was pock-marked for the rest of his life. Being in school prior to measles vaccinations, practically everybody got them and were miserable for several days. High fevers and delirium also resulted. Mumps and whopping cough are also serious problems. My mother missed a whole year of grade school because of whopping cough or pneumonia. Which reminds me, I should get the pneumonia vaccine.

    Individual rights are not absolute when exercising them endangers the lives of other members of society.

    The idea of being stronger by getting the diseases and "natural" immunity is absurd. These people apparently assume that they are already genetically superior to a large part of the population and somehow immune to the laws of science, statistics, and medicine. It is a kind of arrogance and pride with no basis.

  41. Deb Geelsdottir 2015.01.02

    In fact, I argue that it is the vaccines themselves that create that so-called "natural immunity" touted by ignorant anti-vaccine people. Those vaccines contain minute amounts of the virus itself.

    Madizens, are there some vaccines made differently?

  42. caheidelberger Post author | 2015.01.02

    Douglas, interesting analogy between delinquent taxes and delinquent vaccination status. Who does more harm to society: folks who haven't paid their tax bill or folks who may spread infectious disease? And don't forget the flip side: do we do more damage by revealing the name of a person with a medical condition or by revealing the name of a person with a public debt condition?

  43. JeniW 2015.01.02

    I would be concerned about listing the name of children on a public list. They are already vulnerable, to add more vulnerability is not a good thing.

    But, even if list names, there is no way of knowing for sure who is who. That is particularly the case with last names that end with "son," or "sen."

    For example, a name like Mike Johnson, according to whitepages, there are 23 listings of Mike Johnson in SD. Of those, four are listed as living in Sioux Falls. How would anyone be able to identify which Mike Johnson?

    That does not include the listing of Michael, or Myron. Some "Mikes" are nicknames for a totally different first name.

  44. Joan Brown 2015.01.02

    On the news tonight, I think I heard right, but I was also paying my monthly bills, so I'm not sure, I heard right, but it sounds the measles cases have increased to nine, and all of the kids don't attend school or public school and the ages of all the victims range from nine months to 41 years. One of the people is from out of state.

  45. caheidelberger Post author | 2015.01.02

    None attend public school? Are we ready to run with the anti-vaxer, home-school fundagelical profile yet?

  46. Les 2015.01.02

    More lists for the mostly perfect over here at Maddville to take a aim at.

  47. Joan Brown 2015.01.03

    Cory, I didn't hear it on KELO. I rarely watch them, it was either KSFY or KDLT and more than likely KSFY. I also don't think it is completely fair to blame this on illegal immigrants. There are a lot of American citizens that don't believe in immunizations for one reason or another. With all of the intrastate travel now, who knows where it came from.

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