The ongoing measles outbreak in the US, which began when an infected person went to Los Angeles’ Disneyland in December, is being driven by lack of vaccination.
A study published in the journal JAMA Paediatrics concluded that vaccine coverage among exposed populations is below what is necessary to prevent the virus, linking low measles vaccinations rates with the growing outbreak.
According to researchers from Boston Children’s Informatics Program, the measles vaccination rate in the areas with the most cases is between 50 and 86 per cent, far below the 96 to 99 per cent required to create a herd immunity effect.
In recent months there has also been an outbreak of the virus in Australia. Some instances have included three cases linked to a university graduation ceremony in Melbourne in December, at least 14 cases linked to a dance festival in Sydney, and a Canberra patient diagnosed in February.
Signs and symptoms of measles includes a fever, general discomfort, runny nose, dry cough, sore and red eyes, red and bluish spots inside the mouth, and a red and blotchy skin rash that first appears on the face and hairline. Worldwide, measles is the fifth highest cause of illness and death in children and according to the World Health Organisation, 145,700 people died from the virus in 2013.
Experts say this latest study is a warning for parents who have not immunised their children.
“Our data tell us a very straightforward story – the way to stop this and future measles outbreaks is through vaccination,” lead researcher John Brownstein said. “The fundamental reason why we’re seeing the number of cases we are is inadequate vaccine coverage among the exposed. We hope these data encourage families to ensure they and their loved ones are vaccinated, and help local public health officials in their efforts to control this outbreak.”