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Editorial: You can't prevent snow; you can prevent measles

The love month wraps up this week. While most of us likely will remember February 2019 for its onslaught of winter, another avalanche of sorts should be on our radar: lack of vaccinations.

Ten states, according to federal health records, have reported people contracting measles this year, with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reporting 159 confirmed cases as of Feb. 21. That's right, measles — a disease that was declared eliminated as a major U.S. public health threat nearly 20 years ago.

The nearest case is Illinois, but since most outbreaks of preventable childhood diseases in the U.S. today are linked to travelers bringing viruses with them from overseas, the reality is that exposure is only a plane ride (and sneeze) away ... if you and your children aren't vaccinated.

Minnesota and Wisconsin have done a fairly good job at getting children immunized. Records show that Minnesota's 2017-18 kindergarten population of 69,807 had a 92.5 percent compliance rate, which means by the time school began, children had the two recommended doses to ward off measles, mumps and rubella. Wisconsin estimated that 91.8 percent of its 66,178 kindergartners that same academic year had received both shots. There's obviously room for improvement.

Parents' reasons for non-compliance as well as delayed compliance vary from religious to safety concerns, from lack of money (health insurance) to lack of time (so busy they forget).

The good news is that people can get their children's immunizations for measles and more back on track, and the National Vaccine Program Office of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has five reasons you should do so:

• Immunizations can save a child's life. Before a vaccine was introduced in 1963, there were 4 million measles cases, with 48,000 hospitalizations and 500 deaths in the U.S. every year.

• Vaccinations are safe and effective. Yes, they may cause pain, redness or tenderness at the site of injection but this is minimal compared to the pain, discomfort and trauma of the diseases these vaccines prevent.

• Immunizations protect others. This not only protects your family, but also helps prevent the spread of these diseases to your friends and loved ones, especially those who can't be immunized — people allergic to vaccines, newborns, leukemia patients, etc. — at risk.

• Immunizations can save your family time and money. Some vaccine-preventable diseases can result in prolonged disabilities and take a financial toll because of lost time at work, medical bills or long-term disability care.

• Immunizations protects future generations. Vaccines have reduced and, in some cases, eliminated diseases. For example, smallpox vaccination eradicated that disease worldwide. Your children don't have to get smallpox shots any more because the disease no longer exists.

Make certain the children in your life are caught up on their vaccinations for everyone's sake. Yes, show a little love.