Infectious diseases are on the rise in Texas.
In 2017-18, the flu was responsible for 9,470 deaths across Texas, with more than 2,150 deaths in Houston and 2,737 deaths in Dallas, leading health officials to call it “the worst outbreak in years.” Previously, there were 7,459 deaths reported during the 2016-2017 flu season and 5,212 deaths reported during the 2015-2016 flu season.
The harsh flu season was especially hard on the young. Outside of pandemics, the 2017-18 flu season was the deadliest for children since the 2012-13 flu season, with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reporting 172 children dying from flu-related illnesses. These deaths could have been prevented however, as the CDC points out that 80 percent of the children who died did not receive the flu vaccine.
It’s not only the flu that’s becoming more frequent in Texas. Measles and mumps, diseases once all but controlled, are seeing a resurgence in the Lone Star State.
An outbreak of measles occurred in Ellis County in January. The cause was attributed to unvaccinated people. Measles are highly contagious, causing rashes, fevers, coughing and conjunctivitis. For children younger than 5, the measles can cause blindness, ear infection, pneumonia and death.
Mumps too have been on the rise, with the state Health and Human Services Department reporting 221 cases in 2017, the largest amount since 234 cases were reported in 1994. Symptoms include swollen glands, muscle aches, tiredness and low fever.
All of these illnesses could have been prevented by vaccines. Research shows vaccination saves lives. The Public Library of Science Medicine points out that kindergartner opt out for vaccines have been on the rise in Texas, suggesting a growing trend of unvaccinated people.
Will Texans risk more child deaths this upcoming flu season? Will cases of mumps, measles and other preventable diseases continue to rise throughout the state? They will, if some policymakers continue to risk public health in exchange for special interest contributions.
The anti-vaccination lobby, led by “Texans for Vaccine Choice” has endorsed and contributed tens of thousands of dollars to the campaigns of incumbent legislators and candidates. In exchange, legislators have sponsored and voted for legislation to limit access to vaccines. For example, legislators voted to support and amendment to HB 39, which would have prevented foster children from being vaccinated.
Separately, the Legislature overrode former Governor Rick Perry’s proclamation requiring the HPV vaccine, which is proven to prevent cervical cancer, be administered to school children.
Jonathan Boos, a candidate running for Texas House District 113 which lies east of Dallas, is one of the more recent converts to the anti-vaccine cause, endorsed by and accepting financial support from Texans for Vaccine Choice, and in exchange, has taken an anti-vaccine position. If incumbents and candidates continue put themselves up for sale, the health of Texans will take a back seat to special interest cash. We need to Reform Austin.