Ohio doctor: Misinformation contributing to state’s measles outbreak

By: - December 7, 2022 4:47 am

India Ampah holds her son, Keon Lockhart, 12 months old, as pediatrician Amanda Porro M.D. administers a measles vaccination. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images.)

The following article was originally published on News5Cleveland.com and is published in the Ohio Capital Journal under a content-sharing agreement. Unlike other OCJ articles, it is not available for free republication by other news outlets as it is owned by WEWS in Cleveland.


While Ohio’s measles outbreak climbs to 56, with 20 hospitalizations of unvaccinated children and babies, state lawmakers continue to hear legislation that would ban all vaccine requirements.

What is measles?

Measles is a dangerous yet preventable disease that was eliminated in the United States in 2000, according to the World Health Organization. This declaration and the fight against this respiratory illness was a huge win for modern science.

Most cases in the United States are imported and isolated, according to University Hospitals.

Dr. Amy Edwards, who is the associate medical director for UH Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital’s Pediatric Infection Control, explained there are a few main concerns with this disease.

It’s one of the most infectious viruses and this can be found with its R-naught (R0) value. R0 is the basic reproduction number, which is the expected number of cases that directly come from the host’s infection.

The flu has an R0 of 1. COVID-19 omicron variant is about 8-10. Measles is 12-18, according to Edwards.

The mortality rate is about 1 in 1,000, which may not seem like a lot, but that chance most parents shouldn’t be willing to take, the physician added.

“It should be zero because we have a vaccine that is about 98% protective,” Edwards said. “Why would you play Russian roulette with your child’s health?”

Other than death, measles is an incredibly damaging virus. Kids who get measles could get permanent brain damage and it could cause a loss of immunological memory. Immune memory is the ability of the body to remember and know how to fight illnesses it has encountered before.

“Measles takes that memory bank — that library — and trashes it,” she said. “So things that you used to be immune to, things that you’d already suffered through, or vaccinations that you previously had, a lot of that can be taken away.”

Unfortunately, there has been a resurgence, including the latest outbreak in Columbus, Ohio.

Ohio outbreak

The measles cases in Ohio are in Columbus and Franklin, Ross and Richland counties. Of the 56, 54 are unvaccinated children and two are partially vaccinated, meaning the patients only had one dose of the MMR vaccine.

Twelve of the cases are in children younger than one year old; 26 are between 1-2; 13 are from 3-5 and the remaining 5 range from 6-17 years old. This means 46% of the cases are 1-2 years old.

Typically, a child gets the vaccine between 12 and 15 months, this means some of these cases could be from babies who are unvaccinated due to age or parental choice.

“As this outbreak continues to grow, we are encouraging all parents to make sure that their child’s immunizations are up-to-date,” Columbus Public Health told OCJ/WEWS. “If your baby is 12 months of age or older and hasn’t received a first dose of MMR yet, please get them vaccinated as soon as possible.”

Edwards said the outbreak in Ohio is happening because people aren’t getting vaccinated.

“Every time you add more children to the unvaccinated, that increases the susceptible population,” she said.

Among all of the other problems measles causes, it also hurts all of the children who aren’t old enough to get the vaccine or who are immunocompromised, Edwards added.

A local mother’s viewpoint

A mom from Streetsboro, although she isn’t a medical professional, said she doesn’t buy this.

“A child that is not vaccinated and is healthy and their immune system is intact and working fine is… is of no danger to anyone else,” Amy Martinez said.

Martinez isn’t responsible for anyone else’s kids, just her own, all of which are unvaccinated for all diseases, she said. She doesn’t want to lose her freedom to choose just because some parents may feel anxious.

“Every child is entitled to an education, regardless of their vaccination status,” she said.

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Morgan Trau
Morgan Trau

Morgan Trau is a political reporter and multimedia journalist based out of the WEWS Columbus Bureau. A graduate of Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, Trau has previously worked as an investigative, political and fact-checking reporter in Grand Rapids, Mich. at WZZM-TV; a reporter and MMJ in Spokane, Wash. at KREM-TV and has interned at 60 Minutes and worked for CBS Interactive and PBS NewsHour.