Ohio Measles Outbreak Propelled by Low Vaccination Rate among Children

Although the United States was declared measles-free in 2000, a recent outbreak in Ohio is raising concerns about the disease spread enhanced by the possibility that low vaccination rates among children might lead to additional outbreaks.

Although the Ohio outbreak began in October 2022, with the bulk of cases occurring in mid-November to early December, 85 cases have been reported – mainly in Columbus and other parts of Franklin County – as of Friday, 34 of which required per the Columbus Public Health’s data.

According to the health commissioner for Columbus, physician Mysheika W. Roberts, the initial community cases are thought to be linked to one of four travel-related measles cases.

Roberts explains that travelers periodically bring in infections with unvaccinated people visiting countries where measles is endemic – meaning there is regular transmission in the population- returning to their home communities in the United States where they likely instigated a local outbreak.

Most of the latest cases, however, are in unvaccinated children though six of the children had received their first of two doses of MMR (the combined measles, mumps and rubella vaccine) and another 24 were too young to get vaccinated.

With 22 cases last year in Minnesota’s Twin Cities area, Ohio is not the only recent measles outbreak in the country amid a rise in anti-vaccine sentiment, which is raising concerns among health experts that lower vaccination rates could lead to further spread of diseases highly preventable with vaccines.

Susan Koletar, director of the Division of Infectious Diseases at The Ohio State Wexner Medical Center, stressed that, with any of the vaccine-preventable illnesses, they always worry there’s not enough herd immunity, which occurs when enough people are immune through vaccination or natural infection to stop an illness from spreading.

In the case of measles, immunization rates need to be at least 95% to eliminate the disease since measles is highly contagious.

According to the CDC, with 1,274 in 2019 – most of which occurred in eight under-immunized communities – the US saw its highest annual number of measles cases in recent history with a decline in vaccine coverage rates during the pandemic pointed as one of the potential reasons these measles outbreaks.

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