Although the West Nile virus is getting a lot of the attention this year, it is important to note that some other viral infections are still causing problems, even those for which we have a safe vaccine that can prevent your kids from getting sick.
Of course, I am talking about measles, as at least two cases were recently reported in Gentry, Arkansas, with another case being suspected. As in most reported cases of measles these days, the three siblings, ages 10, 14, and 17 years old, were unvaccinated. Two of them, along with other unvaccinated children, were sent home from the Ozark Adventist Academy, a residential high school near Gentry.
It is thought that this outbreak started after one of the children contracted measles during a recent trip to Romania, Italy, and Switzerland. People following recent international measles outbreaks will recognize those as a few of the countries which have accounted for most of the measles cases in Europe this year.
Romania, in particular, had the highest rate of measles in the European Union this past year. It is definitely not somewhere that you would want to send an unvaccinated child, as measles is highly contagious.
Although measles cases in the United States have gone down this year, it is likely because cases in Europe have decreased, and not because vaccination rates have gone up very much here. In fact, there was actually a slight increase in vaccine exemption levels this past year. It is a good reminded to get your kids vaccinated to help them avoid measles.
Which state had the largest increase in vaccine exemption levels? You guessed it - Arkansas.