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Lucy Butler,15, getting ready to have her measles jab at All Saints School in Ingleby Barwick, Teesside as a national vaccination catch-up campaign has been launched to curb a rise in measles cases in England. (Photo by Owen Humphreys/PA Images via Getty Images)

A new study has identified many metropolitan and rural areas across the United States that are now in greater danger of preventable disease outbreaks due to low vaccination rates in children.

Eighteen states allow parents to opt out of vaccines and immunizations for “religious or philosophical” reasons (non-medical exemptions, or NMEs), and every state allows exemptions for children who have compromised immune systems. The new study confirms that large segments of parents are exercising their exemptions, resulting in a growing population of citizens unprotected from childhood diseases that were once virtually eradicated.

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Animal Husbandry department and Forest officials deposit a bat into a container after catching it inside a well at Changaroth in Kozhikode in the Indian state of Kerala on May 21, 2018. - A deadly virus carried mainly by fruit bats has killed at least three people in southern India, sparking a statewide health alert May 21. Eight other deaths in the state of Kerala are being investigated for possible links to the Nipah virus, which has a 70 percent mortality rate. (Photo by - / AFP) (Photo credit should read -/AFP/Getty Images)

The most feared viruses are those for which medical science has not yet developed a treatment, cure or preventive vaccine. Often, such viral agents have only been recently discovered and emerged as an outbreak in a particular region of the world. This is the case for the Nipah virus (NiV), which has claimed the lives of at least nine people in India this year.

Nipah virus was first discovered in Malaysia in the late 1990s when an outbreak of the virus struck approximately 265 people. People became sick after physically interacting with pigs in the area, with symptoms manifesting as brain inflammation.

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A pharmacist handles a syringe for the flu vaccine in the consultation room at his dispensary on October 6, 2017 in downtown Bordeaux, south western France. (GEORGES GOBET/AFP/Getty Images)

Week by week, the headlines have worsened. As the 2018 flu season marches across North America, experts’ warnings have only grown more dire. By most accounts, the 2018 flu season is the worst in a decade. Australia had 2.5 times more cases than usual during their season, and the dominant strain this year seems to be rare. So this year, like every year, physicians are strongly recommending that people of all ages get their flu shots. And this year, like every year, reasonable people ignore or outright dismiss their doctors’ warnings.

The anti-vaccination movement has been utterly debunked, and no one actually likes getting the flu. So why do so many people avoid this simple injection?

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Despite pharmacy warnings and advertisements everywhere, over half of the U.S. still avoids the flu shot every year.

There are plenty of reasons to avoid a shot that may or may not even prevent the flu — fear of needles, fatigue and muscle aches are just a few deterrents from going through with the shot. A person may even remain unvaccinated and avoid getting sick out of sheer luck.

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Co-sleeping, sleep training, breast versus bottle, free-range versus helicopter parenting – these are all hot-button parenting issues. But no parenting issue invokes more division and derision than vaccination.

The difference, pro-vaccinators argue, between the first examples and vaccination is that the decision not to vaccinate impacts more than just one’s immediate family. Unvaccinated children can present a health risk to those too young to be immunized or who are unable to receive vaccines because of allergies or other health issues.

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