You know when you watch epidemic/pandemic movies, and the scientists at the CDC put up maps that simulate how quickly the virus in question will spread through metropolitan areas, then through rural areas, then the whole country, and finally the world?
Well, you can freak yourself out right in the comfort of your own computer with a measles outbreak simulation in your zip code that suddenly (thanks, anti-vaxxers) doesn’t seem like fiction at all.
Herd immunity protects everyone from contracting deadly diseases – even the people who are unable to get vaccinated for actual, real medical reasons. In order to maintain herd immunity, vaccination levels need to stay at or above a certain percent of the population; in the case of measles, that number is 95%.
Once vaccination levels in a population dip below 95%, measles, outbreaks begin to spread, and this University of Pittsburgh simulation shows just how quickly things could get well out of hand.
The tool goes from a 95% immunization level to one that’s only 80%, and you can type in your own zip code to watch (in horror) how many of your friends, family, and coworkers could be affected if an outbreak started in your neighborhood.
“The simulation begins with a single school-aged child contracting measles, and shows the possible spread of the disease in the six months after the initial case.
Red dots show the location of infectious people, and blue dots show the location of recovered people. If more than a few cases appear, herd immunity has been lost, and the disease spreads easily. If only a few cases appear, herd immunity is still in place.”
The creators hope that being able to see such a visceral representation of the consequences of not getting vaccinated will help people make more informed and responsible decisions when it comes to protecting their children against deadly diseases.
It’s eye-opening to see that though people have the right to make decisions for their kids, those decisions affect the community as a whole.
Just something to think about the next time your doctor wants to give your baby a little poke that might save his – or someone else’s – life.