17/03/2015 09:20 GMT | Updated 17/03/2015 09:59 GMT

Surprise, Surprise: Disneyland Measles Outbreak Linked To Anti-Vaccination Movement

A measles outbreak that begin in Disneyland, California and rapidly spread to communities across America was linked to low vaccination rates, a study confirms.

"While researchers have certainly speculated that low vaccine rates might be to blame for the 2015 Disneyland measles outbreak, our study confirms this suspicion in a scientifically rigorous way," said study author Maimuna Majumder, a research fellow at Boston Children's Hospital, according to Live Science.

"The 2015 Disneyland outbreak is quite possibly a direct consequence of the growing anti-vaccination movement in the United States," she adds.

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Disneyland, the place of childhood dreams, has been struggling with a nightmare over recent months, as what started as a measles outbreak among seven people who visited the theme park in December 2014, reportedly spread to around 85 people in seven states.

Three other unrelated outbreaks in Illinois, Nevada, and Washington, have brought the number of infected people up to 173 across 17 states.

Measles is a highly contagious virus that can be fatal. According to the NHS, initial symptoms develop around 10 days after infection, meaning that infected people could unintentionally spread the disease before the tell-tale red rash appears.

About 96 to 99% of people in the community need to be vaccinated against measles to effectively halt its spread, according to Majumder.

Based on the number of individuals infected in the current outbreak, the researchers estimate that vaccination rates in some American communities might be as low as 50% and probably are no higher than 86%.

"Clearly, based on the number of infections we have seen so far, we can say that (the current vaccination rate) is far below the level necessary to achieve herd immunity," Majumder said.

A few years ago, the UK faced a similar situation in Swansea, Wales.

During the measles outbreak, which lasted from November 2012 until July 2013, more than 1,200 people were affected, 88 visited hospital and one person died.

These outbreaks have prompted a huge response with commenters coming out to try and persuade parents to take up the vaccinations their children are offered.

"In our individualist culture, it's tempting to think that the vaccination is an individual choice," writes health writer Sarah Mehta in a blog for HuffPost UK. "But diseases like measles remind us that no person (or family) is an island, and vaccinations are an essential responsibility towards our community as well as ourselves."


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