Rash by rash and fever by fever, measles continues to spread. Health officials in Chicago are watching the case count tick upward. Nationally, measles has reached its highest level in two decades.

We know who’s primarily to blame: misinformed parents who harbor a needless and irresponsible fear of vaccines. Anti-vax parents imperil their own children and others by refusing vaccinations that repeatedly have been proved safe, leaving gaps in the protective circle that stops the spread of the virus. Amid alarming outbreaks and warnings that measles can be fatal in a small number of cases, medical professionals and authorities are taking the right step: Pushing harder to bring resistors into line for the greater good.

Measles was declared eliminated from the United States in 2000, but more than 450 cases have been reported in the country this year. Just seven of those are in Illinois, which has a high vaccination rate, providing the state with what’s known as herd immunity. At least one case has now reached Cook County: an infected person roamed the North Shore and Chicago a few weeks ago.

In an unusual move in the Chicago area, NorthShore University HealthSystem, Advocate Aurora Health and Lurie Children’s Hospital plan to give parents an extra push, sending letters warning of the risks to children who aren’t vaccinated against measles. It’s a worthy nudge, but this may not be all it takes to tighten compliance sufficiently. New York tried educational efforts like distributing informational fliers. It banned unvaccinated children from attending school. Measles cases continued to rise.

Now, Mayor Bill de Blasio, grappling with a significant outbreak in ultra-Orthodox Jewish communities, has escalated the city’s actions, The New York Times reports. He declared a public health emergency and ordered residents of part of Brooklyn to be immunized or face potential fines of $1,000. The city is providing free vaccines to help remove barriers of cost or access.

There is still plenty of conspiracy-fueling, anti-science rhetoric from high places.

Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin said he forced his children to contract chicken pox by exposing them to a sick neighbor as kids. In other words, he made them miserable and risked complications including later susceptibility to shingles, instead of providing them with a safe, effective vaccine. Doctors strongly discourage this type of deliberate exposure, despite such festive names as “chickenpox parties.”

Measles is resurgent, which is unfortunate. Worse, its return was avoidable.

Parents, the best response is to make sure your children are vaccinated, and spread the word to others. Medical professionals have a role to play. The next step in Illinois could come from health officials to tighten vaccination requirements. The well-being of children is at stake.

The above editorial was published April 11 by the Chicago Tribune. Its views are its own.

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