A Massive Measles Outbreak Is Coming, Says Texas Researcher, And You Can Thank Parents Who Don't Vaccinate

A Texas medical researcher says that The Lone Star State is due for a devastating outbreak of measles, and he puts the blame squarely on the shoulders of parents who choose not to vaccinate their children, WATE (Knoxville) is reporting.

Baylor College researcher Peter Hotez says that several states, Texas included, can expect measles outbreaks due to parents choosing not to vaccinate their children. He's not alone in that belief: Hays County Health Department Epidemiologist Eric Schneider also says that it's only a matter of time before a measles outbreak hits.

"In today's travel heavy society, any of these vaccine preventable diseases could be boarding a plane right now and heading to our community at 600 mph."
Less than a generation ago, measles was considered all but eradicated. Measles peaked in Texas in 1958, the year that an outbreak saw some 85,000 Texans come down with the disease. By 2000, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) announced that measles had been effectively eradicated thanks to vaccinations.

Texas is due for a measles outbreak.
By 2000, measles had been effectively eradicated thanks to vaccinations. [Image by Billion Photos/Shutterstock]

What the CDC -- and doctors all across the country -- hadn't counted on was that more and more people would stop vaccinating their children.

The reasons for parents choosing not to vaccinate their children are varied, according to a 2015 Parents report. Some mistakenly believe that vaccines will overwhelm a child's immune system, or that vaccines contain mercury or other toxins. Others believe that the vaccines themselves will make children sick with the very disease the vaccine is intended to prevent.

Perhaps the biggest culprit in the trend of parents choosing not to vaccinate is the mistaken belief that vaccines cause autism. That belief gained traction thanks to a now-debunked 1998 study by British researcher Andrew Wakefield that vaccines cause autism. The British Medical Journal, according to CNN, has thoroughly refuted Wakefield's research, but the damage has been done.

"Meanwhile, the damage to public health continues, fueled by unbalanced media reporting and an ineffective response from government, researchers, journals and the medical profession."
The effects of this trend are readily apparent, say doctors and public health researchers, especially when it comes to measles. Doctors are treating more patients for measles. Schools are sending more children home so they don't infect other kids with the disease. And in 2015, a measles outbreak struck Disneyland in Anaheim, California, sickening at least 173 people.

A Disneyland measles outbreak sickened 173 people.
A 2014 Disneyland measles outbreak sickened 173 people. [Image by Ken Wolter/Shutterstock]

Symptoms of measles include fever, rash, runny nose, and red eyes. One in four people who contract it will require hospitalization. The disease is especially dangerous in children under five years of age; the vast majority of measles deaths occur in small children.

And measles is extremely contagious; if a person infected with measles comes into contact with 10 people, nine of them will come down with the disease.

Reversing the trend of parents choosing to opt out of vaccinations has proved easier said than done. From a legal standpoint, there's little states and the federal government can do beyond not allowing unvaccinated kids to go to public schools. The problem with that, of course, is that it doesn't prevent unvaccinated kids from going out in public -- to Disneyland, for example. Furthermore, 48 states allow parents to send their unvaccinated kids to public school with a so-called "religious exemption," something that can be accomplished simply by signing a document that says your religion forbids vaccination.

Texas is trying to step things up, legally, to reverse that trend. In a state where, last year, 45,000 kids were opted out of vaccines, Democrat lawmaker Donna Howard has introduced a bill requiring parents to meet with a doctor before opting out of vaccines.

[Featured Image by Yuliya Evstratenko/Shutterstock]