Recently a visitor to the Eagle Mountain International Church near Fort Worth, Texas returned from a trip overseas. Coming back to church the person hugged other parishioners and handled babies in the daycare center unknowingly spreading the dangerous measles virus.
The church’s pastor Terri Pearsons commented during one sermon, “We've had a few families that have been affected by this and we want to shut this down."
At least 16 cases of measles originated at the church including seven adults and nine children, the youngest just four months old. Health officials say 11 of the victims have never been vaccinated.
Dr. Ilene Risk is an epidemiologist for the Salt Lake County Health Department. "My first thought was how sad, because it did not need to occur,” said Dr. Risk.
She says with a highly contagious disease like measles even one case is considered an outbreak.
"With something like measles you have to have almost 98% of your population has to be vaccinated if that doesn't occur then we're all at risk,” said Dr. Risk.
That was proven in 2011 when Utah saw a measles outbreak of its own. 13 people were infected, seven alone in Salt Lake County. All of the cases could have been prevented if they had been vaccinated.
Dr. Risk said, "You can die from vaccine preventable diseases it's not necessary to develop illness from diseases that can be prevented."
Still there are upwards of five percent of Utah students not vaccinated. The only safeguard they have is if there is an outbreak in their school of whatever disease they're not immunized against they will be asked to stay home for a period of time.
Dr. Risk says that’s not enough. "I think most of us wear seat belts, use airbags, you have to think about vaccines the same way. It's critically important."