It was just 16 years ago that measles was declared eradicated in the US and now we are having regular outbreaks because of ongoing, and unfounded, fear that the MMR vaccination causes autism, thanks “Dr.” Andrew Wakefield. Because of the lingering fear, anti-Vaxxers have pushed their agenda and the disease is spreading. The 2015 Disneyland outbreak in California that spread to multiple states was directly attributed to parents who refused to have their children vaccinated.
The most current outbreak, and the largest active outbreak in the US, is going on in Eloy, Arizona, at the Eloy Detention Center, which is used by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to house 1,200 alleged undocumented immigrants. This outbreak has been going on since May of 2016 and there have been 22 confirmed cases.
The Pinal County health director stated that the initial case most likely started with a detainee, but since then all detainees have been vaccinated, which means it is now the facility staff, 350 employees, plus an unknown number of ICE agents and staff that are spreading the disease around the facility and carrying it out into the community. Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), based in Tennessee, runs the facility. CCA and ICE had not required employees to be vaccinated, which seems like it would be common sense as they work around immigrants with an unknown vaccination status. CCA has since started requiring employees show proof of immunity, the employees also have the option to wear surgical masks at work or to stay home. But the problem with surgical masks is that while effective protecting against large droplet infections like the flu or whooping cough, the masks have proven ineffective against small droplet organisms like tuberculosis and the measles.
As per Car Christ, director of the Arizona Department of Health Services (AzDHS), as of the week of June 27, 2016, almost two months after the outbreak began, CCA has become more responsive to the outbreak stating a large number of CCA staff members were recently vaccinated. But to this point, ICE has not stated they will require vaccinations. The AzDHS is actively sending physicians to the Eloy Detention Center to provide education and free vaccines so it is hopeful that the ICE staff will also jump on board in an attempt to contain the outbreak and prevent further spread.
Galvin, A. (2016, July 8). Arizona Measles Outbreak Linked to Unvaccinated Federal Workers. Retrieved from http://www.jems.com/articles/2016/07/arizona-measles-outbreak-linked-to-unvaccinated-federal-workers.html.
Ray, C.C. (2011, March 21). Behind the Mask. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/22/science/22qna.html.
Richard has been in EMS since 1993 obtaining his EMT from Johnson County Community College. He lived in Arizona and worked in private EMS and for a fire department in Southern Arizona for 10 years.