"As larger unvaccinated populations grow, particularly in highly mobile cities, the potential for vaccine-preventable disease outbreaks grows", said Peter Hotez, professor at Baylor College of Medicine and co-editor-in-chief of PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases; and Melissa Nolan, an assistant professor of epidemiology at the University of SC, in a joint statement. In recent years, multiple outbreaks of measles - once considered eliminated by the CDC in 2000 - have popped up.
The 12 states are Arkansas, Arizona, Idaho, Maine, Minnesota, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas and Utah.
The rise in unvaccinated children stems from a discredited belief vaccines are linked to autism.
While influenza cases often spike where vaccination rates are lower, measles cases often provide some of the first evidence of hotspots because each case typically leads to an average of 12 to 18 unvaccinated kids and adults catching measles, Hotez said. People can become infected by breathing in droplets or touching a contaminated surface and then touching their eyes, nose or mouth.
According to data from state health officials, 86 percent of children enrolled as kindergartners statewide were up to date on their immunizations in the 2016 - 2017 school year. This ensures the number of people vulnerable to infection is small and helps protect those who can't be vaccinated by preventing their exposure to the virus in the community. And in those states, the high exemption rate is putting kids at risk for contracting and spreading vaccine-preventable pediatric diseases including whooping cough and measles. In some of these places, vaccination rates below 90% mean that outbreaks are far likelier to occur, researchers report this week in PLOS Medicine. "The current findings expand on prior research to illustrate how several states' policies that allow non-medical exemptions correlate with lower rates of vaccination among children".
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