Editorials, Opinion

Make sure measles case stays an outlier

Monongalia County has the first measles case in West Virginia in 15 years.

That alone could stand as testament to the effectiveness of West Virginia’s vaccination policies over the years.

So far, this seems to be an isolated case, with no indication that it’s the start of an outbreak like we’ve seen in other states. The last we heard, the adult patient didn’t require hospitalization and was quarantining at home. We hope they recover quickly and only experience mild symptoms.

If there is any silver lining in this case, it’s that the afflicted is an adult; in general, healthy adult immune systems are better able to handle illness than a child’s. According to the World Health Organization, most of the 136,000 measles-related deaths worldwide in 2022 were in unvaccinated or under-vaccinated children younger than 5 years old.

This is, however, a reminder why vaccines are so important. Gaps in herd immunity are what make outbreaks possible, and as long as the people the patient interacted with received their measles vaccines as kids, they have a low chance of becoming infected. And if they do contract measles, they aren’t likely to experience severe or life-threatening symptoms.

One measles case in 15 years isn’t a bad record. But it could become bad if we, as a state, lessen vaccine requirements for our kids. The last thing we want is for measles cases like this one to become the norm instead of an outlier.