- Sean Gallup/Getty Images
- A measles outbreak in the US has sickened more than 465 people across 19 states, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
- The majority of those cases have been reported in the Pacific Northwest and in a Brooklyn, New York City neighborhood.
- Many health experts are attributing the measles outbreak to the anti-vaccination movement.
- Seventeen US states allow for philosophical exemptions for individuals who have conscientious objections to one or more vaccines.
- California, Mississippi, and West Virginia are the only three states that require a medical reason for exemptions.
A measles public health emergency in the US shows no signs of slowing down.
As of April 4, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) had tallied 465 cases of measles across 19 states. At least of those cases were reported in the Pacific Northwest and more than 120 cases were reported in a Brooklyn, New York neighborhood with a large Orthodox Jewish population.
The outbreak began January 22, when the public health department of Clark County, Washington, announced that at least 23 people were sick with the viral illness, which incubates for a week or two before prompting fever, coughing, runny nose, and little red bumps that break out on the face and body.
Many are blaming anti-vaxxers for the measles outbreak
As the number of measles cases continues to rise, many public-health experts are attributing the epidemic to anti-vaxxers. In Washington, 63 of the 73 cases were among people who did not receive the measles vaccine.
The high percentage of unvaccinated measles patients may be a result of Washington’s vaccination exemptions. According to the National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC), Washington is one of 17 states that allow for philosophical exemptions from vaccines, which are granted to individuals who hold conscientious objections to one or more shots.
Those 17 states also allow for medical exemptions and religious exemptions, which are intended for people who hold a religious belief so strong that “if the state forced vaccination, it would be an infringement on their constitutional right to exercise their religious beliefs.”
New York is one of those religious exemption states. Although Mayor Bill de Blasio called for specific zip codes in Brooklyn to get immediately vaccinated or face a $1,000 fine, members of the Orthodox community could potentially use these exemption rules to remain unvaccinated.
The following map breaks down vaccine-exemption rules across the US, using data from NVIC.
- Shayanne Gal/INSIDER
The 19 states with reported measles cases are: Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Texas, and Washington.
Six of those states – Arizona, Colorado, Oregon, Texas, Michigan, and Washington – allow for philosophical exemptions.
The other states with similar exemption rules are: Arkansas, Idaho, Louisiana, Maine, Minnesota, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Utah, and Wisconsin.
Most other states, as well as the District of Columbia, allow for religious exemptions. California, Mississippi, and West Virginia are the only three states that just permit exemptions for medical reasons.
Even if you do get vaccines, you could still be infected
Receiving a vaccine does not guarantee immunity. A full course of the measles vaccine – which consists of two doses – is about 97% effective at stopping the measles, while a single dose is 93% effective. (At least one person who received a single dose of the measles vaccine in Washington got sick.)
However, vaccinations can increase herd immunity, a scenario in which enough people get vaccines that it’s difficult for a virus to spread in a community. This offers protection for people who are unable to get vaccines for health reasons, like HIV or cancer.
Leah Rocketto contributed to an earlier version of this story.
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