Three unvaccinated children who traveled through Denver International Airport last week have tested positive for measles, according to the Tri-County Health Department.
The children, none of whom are from Colorado, are currently hospitalized in Children’s Hospital Colorado. They traveled through DIA on the afternoon of December 11 and wound up in the emergency room in Aurora the following day. They had traveled to "a country with an ongoing measles outbreak" before coming to Colorado, the Tri-County Health Department wrote in a press release.
Colorado ranks dead last among states when it comes to kindergartner vaccination rates: More than 11 percent of kindergarten students did not receive the requisite measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccinations during the 2017-2018 school year, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
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The Tri-County Health Department notes that approximately 90 percent of people who haven't received their measles shots will become ill after exposure.
“I urge everyone to make sure they have gotten their measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine," John M. Douglas, Jr., the executive director of the Tri-County Health Department, said in a statement. "Vaccination is the only way to protect yourself and the ones you love from measles.”
The Tri-County Health Department is contacting anyone who might have been on the same plane or in the hospital waiting room as the children. According to the office, measles symptoms can sometimes remain latent for weeks after exposure.
Colorado allows parents to opt-out of vaccinating their children for non-medical reasons, and Governor Jared Polis has called himself "pro-choice" when it comes to vaccinating children. During the last legislative session, Polis threatened to veto a bill, which eventually failed, that would have made exempting children from vaccination requirements more time-consuming for parents. However, in June, Polis signed an executive order directing health officials to research why certain parts of the state have lower vaccination rates and to begin spreading information about the importance of vaccinating children.