The whooping cough epidemic may have been fueled by vaccine refusal. Researchers found that California’s 2010 outbreak was concentrated among people who refused vaccines for themselves or their children.
People refuse vaccines for a variety of reasons. Some people are allergic to the vaccine components. Others are prohibited by religious beliefs. Many simply refuse vaccinations for personal reasons.
Most schools allow for exemptions due to medical, religious, or personal reasons. The research focused on children who entered school without required vaccinations. Children with medical exemptions were not included in the study.
Researchers identified 39 clusters of children who were not vaccinated. Within those clusters, people were 2.5 times more likely to have contracted whooping cough.
As reported by CBS News, researchers found the families refusing vaccines “were more likely to be of high socioeconomic status.”
Researchers point out that the disease in highly contagious. Therefore, it can quickly become serious in clusters of unvaccinated children and families.
The disease, also called pertussis, is most common in infants and children. As reported by CDC.gov, over 27,000 cases were diagnosed in 2010.
The symptoms include a severe cough that can leave patients gasping for breath. The cough can last for more than 10 weeks.
The California outbreak accounted for more than 9,000 cases and 10 deaths. It was the worst recorded outbreak in 50 years.
California’s overall vaccination rate is around 90 percent. However, in some schools, the rates are less than 20 percent.
Vaccine refusal is not the only factor that contributed to the outbreak. Researchers found that children who received only partial vaccinations were also at a higher risk. They also note that more recent vaccinations are less effective than their predecessors.
The study concluded that “communities with large numbers of intentionally unvaccinated or undervaccinated persons can lead to pertussis outbreaks.” Researchers said that immunizations are essential due to “limited vaccine effectiveness and waning immunity.”
Whooping cough is specifically dangerous in infants. According to the CDC the best form of prevention is vaccination.
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