If you attend a religious gathering of about 20,000 people, don’t bring the measles virus with you. Simply not.
If you bring such an unwelcome guest, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) may have to spend taxpayers’ money to issue a Health Alert Network (HAN) Health Advisory, as they did on March 3. This advisory came as a result of the Kentucky Department of Health (KDPH) confirming on February 24, 2023 that a person who had never been vaccinated against the measles vaccine surprisingly got the measles. Although contagious, this individual had attended a religious gathering at Asbury University in Wilmore, Kentucky on February 17-18, 2023, which was attended by around 20,000 people. That’s about 20,000 more people than you should be around if you have the measles virus. Since the measles virus made a comeback in the US due to declining measles vaccination rates, public health officials have had to spend heavily on taxpayers to try to clean up the resulting mess.
Here is a WLKY News Louisville Situation segment:
Steps that public health officials have had or are now required to take include:
- Identify where the person may have contracted the measles virus in the first place. The measles virus doesn’t just magically appear. Therefore, public health officials must screen others who have been in contact with the person prior to the religious gathering. The person had recent international travel and may have contracted the virus from outside the US
- Find out who attended this gathering. This would be pretty easy if this was like a glow-in-the-dark sleepover party with just a dozen people or so. But a gathering of thousands of people is very different. It can be difficult to identify all participants and supporters of the meeting. In addition, the participants came from different US states and countries.
- Determining who this person may have been exposed to. This is not easy either, since not only the people had direct physical contact with the infected person. That person could have coughed, sneezed, or exhaled the virus, provided the person breathed at some point during the religious gathering. So anyone who was around the person could have been exposed. Also, the measles virus can linger in the air or on surfaces for up to two hours after the infected person has left the area.
- To determine which of the potentially exposed individuals have never received the full two-dose course of measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine. If you have received the full MMR series, you are probably about 97% protected from measles. It’s not perfect, but it’s damn good. If you didn’t complete the series because you are a young baby or you refused to be vaccinated and never got the measles, then you are very susceptible to the virus. The virus is very transmissible.
- Ensure that those unvaccinated or under-vaccinated remain in quarantine for 21 days after their first contact with the individual. It usually takes about 10 days for you to develop a fever after exposure to the virus, although this can take seven to 12 days. It usually takes about 14 days for a rash to develop. However, this can also vary between seven and 21 days. That’s why you need to stay in quarantine for 21 days to make sure you don’t get a rash. If you are infected, you can remain contagious for four days after your rash has gone away.
- Offer these people the MMR vaccine within 72 hours of exposure or immunoglobulin (IG) within six days of exposure to the measles virus. The MMR vaccine would be preferable as it can provide protection for much longer.
- Monitor everyone to see what symptoms they may be developing. Typical early symptoms are fever, cough, runny nose and conjunctivitis, also called conjunctivitis. Such symptoms appear for three to five days, a rash breaks out on the body. The concern is that measles can lead to even more serious problems, such as pneumonia, encephalitis, and death. And everyone would probably agree that death can be pretty serious.
Again, all of this will take time, effort and resources supported by, guess what, you, the taxpayer. Assuming you pay taxes. Measles was considered eradicated from the United States in 2000 due to high measles vaccination rates. But since anti-vaccination activists began blaming measles vaccination for autism and other things without sufficient evidence, measles vaccination rates have fallen. And that was a lifeline for the measles virus, allowing it to spread more easily and cause outbreaks in different parts of the world. For example, data from the CDC shows that the number of measles outbreaks in the US jumped from 49 in 2021 to 121 in 2022, with all those affected being children who were not yet fully vaccinated.
This situation at Asbury University is another reminder that vaccination is not simply a “personal choice”. It’s more of a decision to wear clothes in public, not to pee in the pool, or not to drive drunk. Your decision to get vaccinated will ultimately affect other people, possibly 20,000 others.