Unvaccinated Amish help create largest US measles outbreak in 20 years

Some Amish missionaries from Ohio decided to go to the Philippines to do some aid work after a recent devastating typhoon.

The missionaries’ parents didn’t bother vaccinating them as children.

Nor did the missionaries bother getting vaccinated as adults.

So they went to the Philippines and brought back a very special gift for the people of Ohio: A measles outbreak that’s become the worst in the US in nearly 20 years.

And you thought the Amish were only good at making furniture.

Amish woman via Shutterstock

Amish woman via Shutterstock

Our own Dr. Thoma wrote previously about the growing problem of resurgent diseases in the US due to the anti-vaccine movement — a kind of birther/truther movement that is convinced vaccines cause autism (they don’t).

Apparently the Amish have traditionally low vaccination rates among their children. (And why exactly is that tolerated by the local health department the state of Ohio?) But that’s no excuse for not being vaccinated as an adult, and for not getting your shots before you go on a trip to a foreign region that’s been devastated in a disaster, which often means disease takes hold. Anyone who does international work, especially relief work, knows about getting vaccinated.  Who organized this trip?  Who let these people go without checking on the health situation in the Philippines, and the vaccination status of the missionaries?

Keep in mind that these missionaries weren’t just posing a threat to Americans, they were posing a threat to the very people they were trying to help.  They could have passed the measeles on to the Filipinos they were working with, including children who are particularly at risk of complications from the disease.

I had no idea it was a “thing” among the Amish not to get vaccinated.  I hope the tourist industry is aware of this, including anyone doing business with the Amish.

Some of the unvaccinated missionaries told local health officials they’d have come in and gotten vaccinated before going on the trip had they known there was an outbreak.

“One guy we spoke to feels just terrible that he brought the measles back and exposed his family,” a local health official said.

Yeah, I bet he does.  Because, you know, this is probably the first time that guy has ever heard of the measles, or vaccinations at all.  So how could he be expected to know that viruses, and not a misalignment of the four humors, caused disease.  (I know a cat in California I’d like to introduce to this guy.)

If only there’d been some way that the Amish could have known before going to the Philippines, or at least before returning to America, that there was a measles problem over there.

November 23, 2013


January 6, 2014


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Follow me on Twitter: @aravosis | @americablog | @americabloggay | Facebook | Instagram | Google+ | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the Executive Editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown; and has worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, the United Nations Development Programme, and as a stringer for the Economist. He is a frequent TV pundit, having appeared on the O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline, AM Joy & Reliable Sources, among others. John lives in Washington, DC. .

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