Measles have gotten off to an early start this year. In just four months, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has confirmed 129 cases from 13 states, including Wisconsin. That's the most reported in the first four months of the year since 1996.
Now that recent outbreak is stirring up an age-old debate about vaccinations. According to the CDC, most of the measles cases in the U.S. are linked to unvaccinated people traveling across borders. It's impossible to stop the transfer of disease from country to country, but an Onalaska pediatric doctor said there are ways to prevent the spread of it and that is through vaccinations. However, some parents don't believe that's the right answer.
Dr. Raj Naik's world revolves around children
"I'm a pediatrician. It's what I do every day; is try to ensure that kids stay healthy, or if they are ill, we try to help them get back to health,” said Naik.
One of the ways Naik says he does his job is through vaccinations.
"We save about 1.5 million lives every year compared to the prevaccine era. That's just in children,” said Naik. "That's about one child every 20 seconds."
Over his 19 years at Gundersen Health Systems, Naik has noticed a shift in child vaccinations.
"The questions come up almost every day,” said Naik.
Questions that pertain to the potential benefits and harms of vaccines.
"There were some things about possible more issues with allergies and asthma and other autoimmune-type issues associated with possible vaccination reactions,” said Marty Lorentz, a father of two children.
After Lorentz and his wife consulted with a doctor, they chose not to vaccinate their children.
"We felt the risks outweighed the potential rewards of doing the vaccinations,” said Lorentz.
"Choosing not to vaccinate is a decision that not only affects your child and your family, but it does affect other people, and it is true that this is a public health measure,” said Naik.
That's why Lorentz and his wife didn't take the decision lightly.
"It wasn't a snap decision,” said Lorentz. "There is a lot of information out there and there is a lot of misinformation out there, but the nice thing is people can become more informed so they can have a legitimate conversation with their doctor."
As always, parents should contact their doctor if they have any questions or concerns about immunizations. If you are looking for additional information, Naik suggests looking at the CDC website or the American Academy of Pediatrics website.
According to the CDC, immunization prevents between 2 and 3 million deaths every year.