While most people are focused on the flu right now and have hopefully gotten their family protected with a flu vaccine, lets not forget that other vaccine-preventable diseases are also putting our kids at risk.
After another big year for measles outbreaks, with at least 184 cases in 2013, we are already getting reports of new cases this year.
Like most others these days, the first case of 2014, was imported from outside the country. It occurred in California, and since the California Department of Public Health wouldn't release any other information, citing patient confidentially laws, I think we can safely assume that the general public wasn't at risk.
The Marion County Health Department in Oregon isn't taking any such risks with their measles outbreak and alerted community health care providers to be on the watch for more cases. In their latest case, an infectious child was seen at the Silverton Hospital Emergency Department on January 12 before being transported to a hospital in Portland. The child joins four other family members in a household outbreak of measles that started back in December, when an adult traveled out of the country and got measles.
In addition to alerting area doctors, the Marion County Health Department "is following up with individuals who had a known exposure to the family." This is part of the immediate control measures that help to contain a measles outbreak.
As we have seen in other outbreaks, it takes a lot of work to keep these outbreaks from growing. For example, a 2013 measles outbreak in Texas in which 16 people got sick, required 1,122 staff hours and 222 volunteer hours from the local health department to contain. That outbreak cost $50,758.93.
And that is just one outbreak and doesn't even factor in other costs, such as costs to the state health department, direct medical charges to care for sick and exposed people, and direct and indirect costs for quarantined families, etc.
To get a better understanding of how much these outbreaks are costing us, keep in mind that there were 220 cases of measles in the United States in 2011. To contain just 107 of those cases in 16 outbreaks, a recent study in Vaccine, "The economic burden of sixteen measles outbreaks on United States public health departments in 2011," found that "the corresponding total estimated costs for the public response accrued to local and state public health departments ranged from $2.7 million to $5.3 million US dollars."
The MMR vaccine only costs about $56.
The costs of containing a measles outbreak is something we rarely think about. But that high cost is nothing when you consider the hidden costs of these outbreaks - the kids who get a vaccine-preventable disease because they are too young to get vaccinated or have an immune system problem that prevents them from getting immunized. They didn't choose to not be vaccinated, and especially didn't choose to not be vaccinated and then travel overseas where measles is even more common.
Get Educated. Get Vaccinated. Stop the Outbreaks.