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America has another batch of measles outbreaks on its hands, as well as its arms, face, back, and everywhere else. And as usual, the disease is spreading in areas where large numbers of people have opted not to get their kids vaccinated against childhood diseases that should have been eliminated decades ago. Hooray for the internet and gullible people! To add to the stupidity, rightwing idiots are spreading misinformation about measles and vaccines, because they love nothing more than going viral.

The two worst current outbreaks are in Washington (the state) and in New York (also the state). In Clark County in southern Washington, just across the Columbia river from Portland, Oregon, 53 people have been diagnosed, most of them children. Four other cases have been confirmed in Oregon's Multnomah County, as well as at least one case in King County, which includes Seattle. The Clark County outbreak was caused by an international traveler to the area, whose infection rapidly spread because the county has lots and lots of unvaccinated kids.


Clark County public health officials have long feared a measles outbreak could spread rapidly given the county's cluster of non-vaccinated children.

Nearly one in four Clark County kindergarten students during the 2017-18 school year did not get all their immunizations, according to data from the Washington Department of Health. At three schools in the county, more than 40 percent of kindergartners did not receive all recommended shots before starting school.

The other big outbreak is in New York, mostly among Orthodox Jewish communities where families decided to forego vaccinations. The infections appear to have started with people coming back from visits to Israel, which is contending with its own measles outbreak.

More than 200 cases have been reported in Rockland and Orange Counties and four Brooklyn neighborhoods since October. The majority of those cases were identified last year, but some new cases continue to trickle in. There have been two dozen in Rockland and Orange Counties since Jan. 1. Two Brooklyn neighborhoods reported three cases in the past week.

Don't blame religion, though (at least not for this): The Orthodox Union and Rabbinical Council of America last year urged parents to vaccinate their kids, pointing out "Jewish law defers to the consensus of medical experts" when it comes to preventing disease. Vox reports state health officials instead attribute the outbreak to the influence of anti-vaccination propaganda that found a willing audience in the communities, where some parents may already be skeptical of mainstream "authorities." Plus, the anti-vaxxers are just plain evil, and happy to be vectors of terrible ideas.

The fearmongerers include the Brooklyn group called PEACH — or Parents Teaching and Advocating for Children's Health — which spreads misinformation about vaccine safety, citing rabbis as authorities, through a hotline and magazines. Brooklyn Orthodox Rabbi William Handler has also been proclaiming the well-debunked link between the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine and autism. Parents who "placate the gods of vaccination" are engaging in "child sacrifice," he told Vox [...]

[The] fact that some Orthodox Jews live outside the mainstream, avoid technology, and hold rabbinic opinion in high esteem may leave them particularly vulnerable to anti-vaxxers.

"Being a religious Jew, you also get used to having a minority viewpoint," said Alexander Rapaport, the CEO of the Masbia Soup Kitchen Network in Brooklyn, and a public face of the Hasidic community. "So if something is not mainstream, it doesn't take you away from believing it."

Several other measles outbreaks in recent years have occurred among close-knit groups with a high percentage of unvaccinated members, the article notes, like Somali-Americans in Minnesota or some Amish communities in Ohio. And from those communities, the disease can spread more widely, anywhere overall vaccination rates dip below the level needed for "herd immunity":

Federal health officials say 101 measles cases had been reported in 10 states this year as of Feb. 7. Many have been concentrated in Washington state, where the growing number of cases has driven local demand for vaccines and fueled debate nationwide over vaccine exemptions for non-medical reasons.

Thank heavens we have prominent rightwing liars to help add fear and disinformation to the mix! Last week, serial liar Jacob Wohl said on Twitter that the measles outbreaks prove we need WALL on the southern border, based on research he pulled out of his ass in a hipster coffee shop:

Apparently WALL would keep infected New Yorkers from coming back from Israel, and would also prevent foreign travelers from flying into Washington (we didn't see any precise info on where Clark County's patient zero came from, but hey, Mexico and Central America have higher measles vaccination rates than Clark County).

Then there's this fresh gem of brilliance today from Darla Shine, spouse of White House comms guy Bill Shine. Don't believe the fake news! Embrace potentially deadly illness for YOUR children, just like in our favorite horrible kids' book ever.

Oh, but then a bunch of stupid liberals showed up to point out that maybe the pre-vaccine days weren't quite so halcyon, maybe:

OK, fine, but what about the tweets from people who died of preventable childhood illnesses, huh? These so-called science-based people are excluding a whole bunch of possible alternative facts. Shine returned to Twitter later with an update:

No, that's only part of it. It's mostly because you're a fucking idiot, although sure, we'll concede this much: If you were a fucking idiot nobody had ever heard of, you'd get less attention.

The outbreak in Washington gave particular urgency to a push by state legislators to pass a bill similar to California's 2015 law that eliminated all non-medical exemptions from the requirement to vaccinate kids before they can attend school. A public hearing last week was, of course, filled with anti-vaxxers, because the Northwest now has anti-vaxxers like it used to have white supremacists. The Washington bill would still allow "religious" exemptions, but would eliminate "personal" or "philosophical" exemptions, which is better than nothing; the bill's sponsor, state Rep. Paul Harris, is a Republican from Clark County. Oregon's Gov. Kate Brown, a Democrat, also says the state legislature should look at tighter vaccine requirements, so hooray for bipartisan public health.

Also too, if you want to feel just a tiny bit better about all the anti-science stupidity out there: Slate brings us a cheery piece noting that while anti-vaxxers have made inroads in some areas, and that has put kids at risk, national rates of vaccination have been largely unchanged for decades. So we don't so much have a national anti-vaxxer problem as we have a whole bunch of local and regional anti-vaxxer problems. Hooray?

Nahh. Just think how much better the national rates would be without those pockets of very vocal idiocy.

[USA Today / US News / CNN / Cato Institute / WaPo]

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Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.

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