Details of individuals below have been changed to protect the privacy of those involved.
Real incidents that engage national, state and local health professionals can be far more fascinating than television investigative dramas and are clearly more important.
This summer, Indiana experienced a health emergency which triggered a massive and urgent response. The swift response and integrated coordination of dozens of public and private health care professionals and organizations was exemplary. I want to take this opportunity to let Hoosiers know about the resources required and the excellence in the teamwork demonstrated by Indiana public health organizations in order to protect all of our health.
On June 3, 2011, a man flew into O’Hare International Airport in Chicago, headed back to his Indiana home after spending a year overseas. The man had a fever, a rash, and unbeknownst to him, the measles virus. Although perhaps his intention was to share his memories of travel, it was his infection that would impact over 700 Hoosiers in an outbreak investigation which affected an entire region of the state.
The measles virus causes a highly contagious respiratory disease that can lead to permanent disabilities and even death. Because measles is so contagious, even one case is considered an outbreak. Luckily, the number of cases in the United States remains small due to the widespread availability of the Measles, Mumps, and Rubella (MMR) vaccine which was introduced in the 1960s. (The MMR vaccine is safe and 99 percent effective with two doses.) However, visitors from other countries or unvaccinated U.S. citizens traveling abroad, can become infected while traveling and bring it home. The recent measles outbreak in Indiana, which infected 14 Hoosiers, exemplifies how one individual’s choice not to get vaccinated has the potential to impact hundreds of lives.
When the initial carrier arrived back in Indiana, he visited a physician, but was misdiagnosed. During the days that followed, multiple friends and family members were exposed, many of whom were unvaccinated. On June 20, five highly infectious family members, ill with fever and rash, visited a hospital emergency room and were correctly diagnosed with measles. The Indiana State Department of Health (ISDH) instigated a complex response to contain the outbreak.
Following diagnosis, the infected individuals were instructed to “self-quarantine” for five days after rash onset, and although most were cooperative, one required a legal order to comply. Unfortunately, the infected individuals had been going about life as usual up until the diagnosis — working, going to church, babysitting, participating in Little League, even taking a bus trip to an amusement park — all without knowing they were infected with a highly contagious and potentially deadly disease. None of the individuals who were infected during the measles outbreak were fully immunized; most were not vaccinated at all.
The ISDH activated an emergency alert message through the Indiana Health Alert Network, notifying physicians and hospitals statewide of the outbreak and brought the CDC in to assist. The very next day, ISDH teams of nurses and epidemiologists were deployed to the area to help identify additional cases and contain the outbreak. Hundreds of residents had to be interviewed and their immunity to measles verified. One organization’s production line even had to be closed down while the entire workforce was screened by ISDH and local health departments and vaccinated, if necessary.
The Indiana immunization registry, CHIRP, allowed physicians and nurses to quickly verify the vaccination status of exposed individuals. CHIRP serves as a valuable tool to encourage and record needed immunizations.
It is due to the diligence of the physician who properly diagnosed the first patient; the swift engagement and “boots on the ground” of the ISDH, CDC, and local health departments; the successful community-wide identification of those who needed to be quarantined or vaccinated; and the use of the CHIRP database, that a potentially devastating epidemic was remarkably contained to only 14 cases. Although the resources employed to confront and contain this outbreak were significant, an uncontained outbreak could incur costs and response on a massive scale due to avoidable illness, disabilities, and even deaths, as well as the potential collapse of a community’s productivity.
It is an individual or guardian’s right to choose safe vaccinations for household members, but as this case demonstrates, failure to be immunized can pose a serious threat to family, friends and coworkers. While parents prepare to send Indiana’s children to school this year, I urge them and all Hoosiers, to make sure their vaccinations are up-to-date. A fully vaccinated population is the only protection against unnecessary, costly, and dangerous outbreaks like the one Indiana just experienced.
To learn more about immunizations and public health preparedness, please visit www.statehealth.IN.gov.
Details of individuals below have been changed to protect the privacy of those involved.
FLASHPOINT: Getting right with history
I am ornery enough to never much worry about whether I am on the “right” side of history.
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FLASHPOINT: Same-sex marriage battle not good for state’s future
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FLASHPOINT: A pledge to work together with respect, civility
Indiana’s students and schools have made great progress in recent years. According to the latest scores from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), Indiana is improving at the second-fastest rate of any state in the country. We owe this progress to the hard work of our students, teachers and the parents and school reformers everywhere who have insisted that we hold ourselves to high standards.
FLASHPOINT: Putting children before politics
I very rarely write a response to an opinion article. However, when the title of the Indianapolis Star column says, “While Ritz, Board spar, children get hurt,” I feel compelled to clear the air.
FLASHPOINT: Prescription for Obamacare: delay employer mandates
An email I received from Daniel in Elkhart, Ind., summarizes the experience many Hoosiers are having with the recently launched Obamacare online health insurance marketplace:
FLASHPOINT: A common-sense Congress could strengthen our economy
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FLASHPOINT: How to improve the road ahead for our government
One of the more amazing spectacles in the days after the government shutdown ended was the obsession in Washington with who won and who lost in the showdown. Yes, the capital is focused on next year’s elections, but honestly! There was only one real loser, and that was the American people.
FLASHPOINT: Celebrating role of newspapers in protecting free speech
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FLASHPOINT: Hard-hitting ads are effective in preventing tobacco use, saving lives By
Reducing tobacco use is one of the most important things we can do to improve the health of Hoosiers. Education campaigns to alert of the dangers of tobacco use are critical, as are pointing them to resources to help them quit.
FLASHPOINT: A difficult decision to allow oil testing, drilling
Our current culture seems to tell us life’s struggle is all about good vs. evil and black-and-white decisions. The reality is that the hardest choices are those that aren’t clear cut. They’re the ones you can argue from either side but eventually must make based on only a slight edge. That is the kind of choice the Sisters of Providence had to make about whether to test for and drill for oil on our Mother House land.
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Flashpoint: Access to home health care hangs in the balance
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FLASHPOINT: Vigo County: Cutting-edge of school safety
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FLASHPOINT: Congress and Syria
As Washington swirls with proposals, counter-proposals, and political brinksmanship in response to diplomatic efforts on Syria, the situation has a lot of people scratching their heads. Couldn’t President Obama and Congress have handled this differently?
FLASHPOINT: The north side suffers from School Board’s decisions
As the parent of four children on the north side of the Vigo County School Corp., I am becoming increasingly alarmed by the growing disparity in opportunities and facilities provided to students depending upon where they reside.
FLASHPOINT: How Congress, the media and the public got played
Aaron Sorkin couldn’t have written it any better. The president of the United States makes threats, flexes his muscles, and bides his time as Congress takes its time mulling over various military options. Knowing the prolonged nature of the congressional decision-making process, Obama used this time to get what he really wants: a peaceful, international solution to the Syrian situation.
FLASHPOINT: Why the Scheid Diesel Extravaganza is so popular
About 15,000 people attended the Scheid Diesel Extravaganza this year — numbers that mirror the attendance count from 2012 and 2011. But why does Terre Haute experience a 25-percent increase in population for this particular event’s three-day duration?
Flashpoint: Perhaps Tony Bennett was right?
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FLASHPOINT: A new vision for Indiana’s education system
A recently published political cartoon stated that, “school reform will continue with Glenda Ritz as the new driver.”
FLASHPOINT: Unwise fracking policy could hinder economic development
According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the amount of technically recoverable oil from shale formations has jumped 10 times in the past two years and the amount of technically recoverable shale gas is up 10 percent. In and around Terre Haute, the Illinois Basin shale formation could play an important part in stimulating the economy and helping to meet U.S. consumers’ energy needs for many years to come.
FLASHPOINT: Indiana hospitals embrace notion of price transparency
Following the federal government’s release of data on hospital charges for Medicare patients, much has been written nationally about how health care providers determine prices, the variation in charges for the same procedure and the willingness of hospitals to “come clean” on the issue of price transparency. As president of the Indiana Hospital Association, representing 164 Hoosier hospitals and health systems, we fully embrace price transparency.
FLASHPOINT: The Affordable Care Act’s youth problem
Young Americans may soon experience “sticker shock” when shopping for health insurance. A new survey of insurers estimates that premiums will almost triple for a hypothetical 27-year-old man next year, once all the federal health reform law’s rules take effect.
FLASHPOINT: Despite challenges, Ivy Tech remains vital to state’s future
I recently read economist Morton Marcus’ piece, “Ivy Tech: Our Hope, Our Failure.” I was interested in his perspective enough to provide some comments as a local business owner who understands the important role higher education plays in the success of companies here in Indiana.
FLASHPOINT: Tax punishes Hoosier workers
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Prosthetic legs have enabled wounded soldiers to run again. Cardiac patients have had decades added to their lives because of artificial heart valves and stents.
FLASHPOINT: Wabash River should be appreciated and protected
Boating down the Wabash River near Lafayette on July 16, I witnessed firsthand the broad, winding river’s scenic beauty, but I also got a lesson in the environmental challenges the river faces when two Asian carp hurled themselves out of the water and landed in our boat.
FLASHPOINT: Obamacare’s definition of a full-time job needs revising
In Lafayette, a school district cut the hours of 200 support staff to no more than 29 per week. In Bangor, Maine, the school system is preparing to track and cap the number of hours worked by substitute teachers to ensure that they don’t work more than 29 hours a week. Elsewhere, in Portland, Maine, a small business reduced a part-time employee’s hours from 35 to 29. We are hearing reports like this from across the country. Why is this happening?
FLASHPOINT: In politics, why trust is the coin of the realm
Back in June, Gallup released a survey that got a fair bit of attention for its headline finding: only 10 percent of Americans trust Congress as an institution. Think about it. If you walk into a cafe this morning and there are nine other people in there reading the paper or staring into their laptops, only one of you in the room has faith that the body charged with making our nation’s laws can do its job right.
FLASHPOINT: The ‘war on coal’ will hurt every Hoosier
A survey published recently revealed that 76 percent of Americans are currently living paycheck to paycheck with little or no real safety net in the form of savings. Yet at every turn, it seems like the Obama Administration is making it more difficult for families and businesses to make ends meet at the end of the month.
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- FLASHPOINT: Getting right with history