A top Bexar County health official says the return of measles to the county, with the first case of the highly contagious disease in 12 years confirmed this week, and a second case reported in Guadalupe County, indicates we are losing the 'herd immunity' which has protected us from infectious diseases for deacades, News Radio 1200 WOAI report.
Dr. Anita Kurian, an epidemiologist and the Assistant Director of the Metropolitan Health Department, says this is a direct result of fewer people being vaccinated.
"Every year we are seeing the proportion of religious and philosophical exemptions going up," she said. "The number of people who are opting for these exemptions is going up, thereby reducing our herd immunity."
"Herd immunity" is defined as ' a form of indirect protection from infectious disease that occurs when a large percentage of a population has become immune to an infection, thereby providing a measure of protection for individuals who are not immune.'
Generally, herd immunity is achieved when more than 85% of a population receives vaccination against infectious disease. The remaining 15% are then at less risk, because the virus has fewer hosts in which to thrive and spread.
Dr. Kurian says with 'herd immunity' shrinking, more of us are left at risk for disease. She says it is time for lawmakers to take a second look at laws which allow people to 'opt out' of mandatory vaccinations, like the state's 'no shots no school' law.
"The exemptions should be either removed or dropped down," she said. "That should be given a good look."
So what should be our takeaway from the spread of measles, which is among the most infectious diseases?
"Vaccination is your best bet against fighting this," she said. "So if you are not vaccinated, get vaccinated."