There are now 55 confirmed cases of whooping cough in Grand Traverse County, and five cases of measles spread between Grand Traverse and Leelanau counties. The rise in these completely preventable diseases is alarming, but even more alarming are the high rates of children not receiving life-saving vaccinations in these two counties.
Mlive provided a database of information for each county in Michigan and the percentages of children with immunization waivers in public and private schools. It may be worthwhile to bookmark this page and search through school districts in your county to see which schools have the potential for illness outbreaks.
Downstate in Allegan County the health department reports whooping cough has appeared there. They ask everyone who show symptoms to be treated for the disease whether they are confirmed or not. Whooping cough is treatable if caught early and the infected person takes a full course of antibiotics. Infants, small children and the elderly are at greater risk if they are not treated quickly.
Whooping cough in Grand Traverse County originated with for-profit charter school Grand Traverse Academy. The school closed for an entire week in November when attendance dropped below 70% of enrollment. From there the disease spread to other school districts in the county. 18% of GTA students have immunization waivers.
The state is taking action to make sure more children in school have necessary vaccinations to protect everyone from contracting these preventable diseases. Starting January 1 new rules will require parents to put their specific religious or philosophical objections in writing before being allowed to exempt their child from being vaccinated. They will in addition be required to sign a form admitting they understand that they are putting their child and other people’s children at risk if they send their non-vaccinated child to school. Signing the form also means the parents agree that their child will not be permitted to participate in school or other school-related activities if the health department determines that child is a risk to others.
The responsibility of keeping Michigan’s children and the community safe from preventable diseases must be put on those who engage in risky behavior that makes everyone vulnerable. Parents who don’t get their children vaccinated need to reconsider their choices, and the consequences of what they are doing to everyone else. Vaccinate your children.