It’s not everyday that you receive an email from your university announcing that the airport in your city confirmed that it had exposure to the measles virus.
This was the unfortunate reality for the students of Long Beach State, who received a notice from the Vice President of Student Affairs that an infected individual flew out of the Long Beach Airport on both March 30 and April 7.
The Long Beach Airport is a mere two miles from the University Library, located on upper campus. It wouldn’t be wildly unusual for a student attending LBSU to be present at the airport at the time and was therefore exposed to the airborne virus.
Upon doing more research, I found that the measles outbreak in Southern California was officially confirmed April 18. This is of course less than a month ago, and since then there have been six more people with the measles identified within the Los Angeles County.
Needless to say, I was stunned to hear that a once eradicated threat had found its way back and into the framework of what I would consider a space I and thousands of students are frequently in.
Yet, I began to reminisce on occasions where I had scrolled past adamant and influential celebrity “anti-vaxxers” on social media preaching false narratives about the measles vaccine. These theories range from it causing autism to their ability to strengthen the immune system (many of which have been debunked).
Their foundation was built on false findings published in 1998 by Dr. Andrew Wakefield, which were promptly disproved, but still managed to impact the susceptible masses.
Regardless of your beliefs, as anti-vaxxers often target religion as an important mechanism for preventing vaccination, vaccines do what they were designed to do. The threat of measles was and now is still alive, but so are vaccines as well as those fighting for vaccinations.
For many, it begins with children who are affected by their parents decision to not vaccinate them, leaving them highly susceptible to eradicated diseases and viruses. Some teenagers have decided to rebel against their anti-vaxxer parents and opt to vaccinate themselves despite their parents wishes.
I’m going to state the obvious fact that I can’t deny the science behind vaccines and their ability to eliminate deadly viruses which once proved to be a pervasive problem for past generations.
Yet, a relatively short 20 years later, society is struggling to remind those who believed Wakefield to convert back to the scientific logic behind vaccinating their children against measles.
In the aftermath, Los Angeles County finds itself confronting the reality that the measles virus may very well be spreading again, despite officially being declared eradicated in 2000.
My concern is that myself and my peers face the risk of a highly contagious, airborne, unpleasant and potentially deadly virus in the throes of finals season.
While measles may be back, there is still hope if we continue to encourage everyone to get vaccinated. By reminding people that science is the initial and only reason measles was wiped out, we still have a chance at containing the outbreak to the six diagnosed cases.
With the help of informational websites such as the government run Vaccines.gov, it is still possible to reinstill how essential vaccines.
So if you know any parents, parents-to-be or any anti-vaxxers, don’t hesitate to remind them of the importance of vaccines.