Internet InfoMedia how to protect yourself from a forgotten disease now coming across the border

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As a physician, witnessing the resurgence of measles in the United States has been deeply concerning. Once considered eradicated in the country, measles has made a startling comeback in recent years, most recently in the heavily crowded migrant shelters of Chicago and other small pockets in the United States. The uptick in cases no doubt is fueled by a combination of factors ranging from vaccine hesitancy to congregation of people with low immunization coverage. 
As both a physician and a mother of young children, my perspective on this issue is twofold, blending medical expertise with maternal instinct. 
From a medical standpoint, the resurgence of measles underscores the critical importance of vaccination in preventing the spread of infectious diseases. Measles is highly contagious, with the virus capable of surviving in the air and on surfaces for several hours, making containment efforts challenging.  

As a physician, I have witnessed the devastating consequences of measles firsthand. Complications of measles can range from mild, such as ear infections, to severe, including pneumonia, encephalitis, and even death.  

migrant influx

Infectious diseases can spread more readily when people are packed tightly together. This is especially a problem for under-vaccinated groups like migrants. FILE: Migrants flood into Eagle Pass, Texas, waiting to be processed in December, 2023. (Fox News)

Young children, pregnant women, and individuals with compromised immune systems are particularly vulnerable to the complications of measles, making widespread vaccination crucial to protect vulnerable populations. 
High immunization rates were instrumental in the successful eradication of measles in many parts of the world. Through widespread vaccination campaigns and strong healthcare infrastructure, immunization rates reached levels where the virus struggled to find susceptible hosts to infect.  

This collective immunity, often referred to as herd immunity, provided protection not only to those who were vaccinated but also to individuals who couldn’t receive vaccines due to medical and religious reasons. However, the resurgence of measles in recent years can be directly attributed to declining immunization rates. 
Unfortunately, the continued universal push for COVID-19 vaccines fueled underlying vaccine hesitancy in many. Pre-pandemic, vaccination rates stagnated, but recent reviews show further declines in 2020 and 2021 compared to 2019, with some vaccines and sub-populations disproportionally impacted. 

Understanding vaccine hesitancy and fears in parents is essential to foster open dialogue regarding vaccines. As a mother of three, I too have similar apprehensions. Many parents grapple with concerns surrounding their safety and efficacy, often fueled by historical mistrust or personal experiences. These anxieties may stem from a desire to protect their children coupled with uncertainties about potential side effects. 
Believing that some vaccinations serve the critical purpose of preventing deadly viruses from circulating, while others should be risk-based rather than universal, underscores an essential approach that must be taken when it comes to considering vaccines.  

Vaccines against highly contagious and potentially lethal diseases like measles and polio play a vital role in protecting both individuals and communities from outbreaks. These vaccines are designed to create herd immunity, reducing the spread of disease and safeguarding vulnerable populations. However, for certain vaccinations targeting less severe illnesses or those with lower transmission rates, a risk-based strategy may be more appropriate.  

Unfortunately, the CDC got this wrong during the Covid pandemic and even after it was clear most children and young adults were at low risk for severe outcomes, they didn’t alter their recommendations. In my opinion, this has been the single most influential cause of vaccine hesitancy in my lifetime. 

High immunization rates were instrumental in the successful eradication of measles in many parts of the world. Through widespread vaccination campaigns and strong healthcare infrastructure, immunization rates reached levels where the virus struggled to find susceptible hosts to infect.  

By assessing individual risk factors and considering factors such as age, occupation, and travel habits, we can tailor vaccination recommendations to maximize benefits while minimizing unnecessary risk. This balanced approach acknowledges the importance of vaccination in disease prevention while recognizing the need for personalized healthcare decisions.  

Addressing disparities in access to healthcare and vaccination is another crucial step for achieving widespread immunity against measles and other vaccine-preventable diseases. Vulnerable communities, such as migrant shelters and others with limited access to healthcare services or facing socioeconomic barriers, may be disproportionately affected by outbreaks of measles.  
Congregating low vaccination populations in small spaces with limited access to healthcare and inadequate sanitation will prompt the spread of infectious disease. Migrant facilities often become breeding grounds for the spread of infectious diseases, posing risks not only to migrant populations but also to surrounding communities. 

Woman getting vaccine

The CDC’s insistence on COVID-19 vaccinations undermined support for other vaccines, too. (iStock)

The resurgence of measles in the United States serves as a stark reminder of the importance of safeguarding public health. As a physician, I urge parents to consider certain immunizations for their children, recognizing the significant benefits they can offer in preventing serious illness and protecting vulnerable populations.  


As a mother, I empathize with the concerns of parents regarding vaccines and the frustration of knowing our herd immunity to measles is weakening.  

The individual family can only do so much. If the government continues to congregate migrants in overcrowded spaces, government intervention and policy changes are essential to effectively address and mitigate the spread of illness to protect not only these vulnerable populations, but the health of the nation.  


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