Curbing measles in Bucks County

    About 20 students at two Bucks County schools are getting an unplanned vacation from class. It’s an effort to curb the spread of the measles at two Council Rock district schools.

    Officials are waiting for final lab tests, but two students and one adult likely got the measles from exchange students visiting from France.

    The measles virus spreads easily from infected people, so the Bucks County Health Department asked students who aren’t protected by a vaccination to stay home from school.

    County health department director Dr. David Damsker met with several of those families and urged them to reconsider vaccination.

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    “Some of them obviously feel very strong and have not taken my advice,” he said. “Some, I hope, are giving the whole thing a second thought. This is the world that we live in. If you choose not to vaccinate your children, you are taking as risk that if a disease breaks out, that they will be removed (from school) or potentially get the disease.”

    Unvaccinated students at Council Rock High School North and Newtown Middle School were removed from class because they are most vulnerable to the virus. No vaccine is 100 percent certain, Damsker says, but even an initial dose can provide partial protection that can lessen symptoms if someone does catch the measles.

    Pediatrician Gerard Margiotti, who leads a large Bucks County medical practice, said many parents have misplaced fears about vaccines, so he works to educate them.

    “They can be at Sesame Place and someone right next to them could have been at a far-off place like Asia or Africa,” Margiotti said. “These diseases are very, very real and the immunizations are absolutely necessary.”

    Margiotti’s practice has taken a hard line on vaccines. If parents are unconvinced by the science backing immunization safety, he asks them to find another doctor for their child.

    “It’s sort of like trying to prove there’s no Big Foot and no Loch Ness Monster,” Margiotti said. “When someone tries to argue on that level, and says things like ‘I feel they are dangerous, or you are putting too much stuff into my child,’ they really do not express any knowledge of science.”

    Pennsylvania schools grant vaccine waivers for medical or religious reasons.

    Damsker says as many as 5 percent of the students in some local schools don’t have the state-required vaccinations.

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