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Measles on rise because people aren't getting vaccinated, says Loyola Infectious Disease leader

MAYWOOD, Ill. (May 30, 2015) – Measles have reached a 20-year high in the United States and the cause lies squarely with those who deliberately refuse to be vaccinated.
Eighty-five percent of all unvaccinated U.S. residents who contracted measles cited religious, philosophical or personal reasons for not getting immunized, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Religious, philosophical or personal reasons are not medical reasons for not getting vaccinated,” said Jorge Parada, MD, medical director, Infectious Disease at Loyola University Health System.

From Jan. 1-May 23 of this year, 288 measles cases were reported to the federal health agency, the highest year-to-date total since 1994. Measles has caused 43 patients to be hospitalized this year, but no deaths have occurred.

“Whether they recognize it or not,  most people who consciously opt out of vaccines are depending on herd immunity – that enough other people will get vaccinated so as to prevent widespread infection. Yet by opting out they are  seriously undermining the very herd immunity they depend on for safety,” Dr. Parada said. “It’s a numbers game, and America is losing ground in the fight against preventable disease."

Parada said the people he fears for most are those who for legitimate medical reasons cannot tolerate a vaccine.

“Herd immunity may be life-saving for people who medically cannot tolerate a vaccine, for these people are the most vulnerable to disease,” Dr. Parada said. “It should be frightening to every single American that people deliberately are refusing vaccinations.”
Too often the people who consciously opt out of vaccinations count on not getting sick, Dr. Parada said.

“I have worked in Africa and Europe where I witnessed outbreaks of vaccine-preventable illness due to a lack of access to immunizations, not due to personal choice” he said. “I saw moms begging for vaccines for their kids. In America, the collective memory of the horrific outbreaks of preventable diseases has faded."

Many simply underestimate the risk of natural infection and overestimate the risk of vaccinations.

“Deliberately choosing not to get vaccinated while relying upon others getting vaccinated is a dangerous combination,” Dr. Parada said. “I only hope those who opt out do not come to discover firsthand the potentially devastating consequences of natural infection."

Loyola University Health System is recognized internationally as a leader in infection control and prevention. Loyola is one of a few select hospitals that invests in universal screening of all inpatients for MRSA. Loyola was also one of the first institutions to require all staff to have mandatory flu shots as a condition of employment. Loyola also actively screens Emergency Department patients for HIV/AIDS as part of an ongoing research study.

Loyola University Health System (LUHS) is a member of Trinity Health. Based in the western suburbs of Chicago, LUHS is a quaternary care system with a 61-acre main medical center campus, the 36-acre Gottlieb Memorial Hospital campus and more than 30 primary and specialty care facilities in Cook, Will and DuPage counties. The medical center campus is conveniently located in Maywood, 13 miles west of the Chicago Loop and 8 miles east of Oak Brook, Ill. The heart of the medical center campus is a 559-licensed-bed hospital that houses a Level 1 Trauma Center, a Burn Center and the Ronald McDonald® Children's Hospital of Loyola University Medical Center. Also on campus are the Cardinal Bernardin Cancer Center, Loyola Outpatient Center, Center for Heart & Vascular Medicine and Loyola Oral Health Center as well as the LUC Stritch School of Medicine, the LUC Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing and the Loyola Center for Fitness. Loyola's Gottlieb campus in Melrose Park includes the 255-licensed-bed community hospital, the Professional Office Building housing 150 private practice clinics, the Adult Day Care, the Gottlieb Center for Fitness, Loyola Center for Metabolic Surgery and Bariatric Care and the Loyola Cancer Care & Research at the Marjorie G. Weinberg Cancer Center at Melrose Park.

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Stasia Thompson
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