Measles used to be part of a medical past, among diseases that modern science had virtually eradicated in the United States. Then came the anti-vaxxers with their faux science, and now measles cases are on the rise again.

It is not in the nature of doctors to turn away patients, but more pediatricians in Dallas and surrounding communities are doing just that to reduce the risk of unimmunized children spreading illness to infants too young to have been inoculated. We applaud them for taking this stance.

Nationwide, 206 cases of measles were reported in 11 states through February, including six outbreaks, defined as three or more cases. In Texas, health officials confirm at least 11 measles cases so far this year, more than in all of 2018. Historically, Texas has been a hot spot for unvaccinated children, with the major metropolitan centers posting among the highest rates of unvaccinated kindergartners in the nation.

Measles is back largely because parents foolishly reject science and believe debunked theories that supposedly link vaccinations to autism. After years of extensive research, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the National Institutes of Health, among others, have discredited the link. Yet, the autism myth — supercharged by social media — continues to drive parents to make bad decisions with the health of their children and others.

Measles was declared eliminated from the United States in 2000, thanks largely to vaccinations. The highly contagious respiratory illness is transmitted when an infected person coughs or sneezes virus particles into the air. It is so contagious that if one person is sick and spreading measles, most people who aren’t immune will get it. Children younger than 5 are particularly susceptible to measles complications. In fact, measles is the leading cause of vaccine-preventable infant mortality, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Turning away unvaccinated children reduces the interactions in a pediatrician’s waiting room that could promote the spread of the disease to infants. It’s hard to believe we are advocating turning children away from the doctor’s office, but when parents refuse to do the right thing, the larger community’s health must be considered first, as more and more doctors are rightly doing.

Diseases like measles, mumps and polio virtually disappeared because a critical mass of people received vaccinations. Parents who decide that their children will not be vaccinated turn their kids into the weak links in the prevention chain.

Some parents will argue that they have personal rights to make decisions that impact their children. Parents, however, don’t have the right to put other people at risk.

Perhaps not getting a spot in the local pediatrician’s waiting room will be the wake-up call these parents need that fake internet science is no substitute for real medical advice.

An editorial from The Dallas Morning News.

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