Vaccinations not about ‘freedom’ (copy)

A single-dose vial of the measles, mumps and rubella, or MMR, virus vaccine is shown at the practice of Dr. Charles Goodman in Northridge, Calif., on Thursday, Jan. 29, 2015. File/Damian Dovarganes/AP

Federal health officials reported this week the U.S. is seeing the highest number of measles cases since the disease was declared to be eliminated in 2000.

So far, 22 states have reported cases this year. South Carolina isn't one of them. 

"Things are always subject to change, of course," said Tommy Crosby, a spokesman for the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control. 

Measles is a highly contagious virus. Around one out of every 1,000 people who contract it will die from it, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. What makes the virus so dangerous is how easily it can spread. 

It can travel through the air from coughing and sneezing, which are two of the most common symptoms. 

At 695 reported measles cases for this year, the U.S. recently surpassed its 2014 record of 667 cases. New York and Washington state have reported record outbreaks of the virus. 

To prevent the virus, the public is recommended to get the measles, mumps and rubella, or MMR, vaccine. Experts are looking at people avoiding these vaccinations as one of the root causes of the outbreaks.

Many parents have avoided getting their children vaccinated. Most of them argue the vaccine causes autism — an argument that a multitude of health experts have identified as being false.

"The best way to prevent measles is to get vaccinated," Dr. Linda Bell, DHEC's state epidemiologist, said in a press release.

Some experts say SC could be vulnerable to a measles outbreak as people forgo vaccines
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South Carolina residents shouldn't take the lack of cases as a sign the virus isn't a threat. The last reported cases of the measles for the Palmetto State was in 2018. The health department recorded six cases in Spartanburg County.

In the past, The Post and Courier has reported on the debate over religious exemptions from vaccinations. Between 2014 and 2018, there was a nearly 20,000 increase in the number of students who were exempt from vaccinations like the MMR vaccine for religious reasons.

Spartanburg County was the county with the highest religious exemption percentage in the last school year. 

Children are recommended to get two doses of the MMR vaccine. The first should be administered between the ages of 12 to 15 months. The second should be between the ages of 4 and 6 years.

The state health department said the main thing they can do now is advocate for vaccinations and alert the public of cases as they arise. 

“It helps protect and cut down the disease," Crosby said. 

Reach Jerrel Floyd at 843-937-5558. Follow him on Twitter @jfloyd134.