AP NEWS

Surge in measles, flu shows need for vaccines

March 9, 2019

Texans like to set records, but we just reached a new one that no one can be proud of. In the first three months of this year, Texas has exceeded the total number of confirmed measles cases in all of 2018, which was nine. In 2017, there was only one case. Clearly, we’re headed in the wrong direction with a preventable disease.

Places like Southeast Texas with several ports also face a different problem with diseases like measles. The Port Arthur Health Department confirmed that a crew member aboard a ship that docked in Port Neches last month tested positive for measles. That person was from another country and was taken immediately to a local hospital. His fellow crew members were not allowed to leave the ship, however. That incident was the first confirmed case of measles in our area.

Flu cases are also unfortunately increasing now, even though many people mistakenly think of it as a cold-weather illness. Experts say flu season can last until April, or even May in some cases. Flu outbreaks typically have several peaks within a single season, and our region seems to be going through one now. Doctors are still advising people who haven’t received their flu shots yet to get them, even though it can take two weeks for the vaccine to take effect.

The common denominator in these illnesses and others is inoculations that can help people avoid them. Incredibly, an unfounded pushback against vaccinations is letting preventable diseases like measles stage a comeback. These people mistakenly think that vaccines cause illnesses instead of preventing them, and their views are easily spread on the internet and social media.

This is a risk that no one needs to take, and the answer is education. Doctors, school officials and political leaders should emphasize the need for regular vaccinations. Celebrities and athletes have the right of free speech, too, but if they promote unscientific theories, they aren’t helping anyone. More consumers should understand the difference in knowledge on this issue between, say, a highly educated researcher and someone who read something on a message board.

Measles can be prevented by the two-dose MMR vaccine, which protects against that illness as well as mumps and rubella. The vaccine is about 97 percent effective if both doses are administered, and 93 percent effective after the first dose, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC also says that one to two of every 1,000 children who contract measles will die from it.

No one should take that risk. There’s a way to avoid it, and all of us should take advantage of it.