The ongoing measles epidemic is deadly serious business. As of April 26, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported 704 cases in 22 states. This is the largest outbreak in 25 years and since measles was pronounced eradicated in 2000.

Measles can kill people or leave its victims with permanent brain damage. It did a lot of both before a vaccine was developed.

One of the few rational statements uttered by Donald Trump in the four years since he has been elevated from media-omnivore-clown to someone whose opinions are, unbelievably, taken seriously by elements of the public was his recent, belated endorsement of measles vaccinations. This represents a 180-degree reversal of his prior crazy, unsupported claim that vaccinations cause autism, a canard that has been soundly debunked by every knowledgeable medical professional. Sadly, like a zombie, it keeps rearing up nevertheless.

His about face and newfound support for vaccination puts Trump in the mainstream camp opposite the clueless governor of Kentucky, Republican Matt Bevin, the undisputed champion of “anti-vaxx” idiocy now that Trump has seen the light (however dim). In the middle of the measles epidemic, Bevin announced that he purposely exposed his nine children to chickenpox at a party given with exposure in mind. He is an unrepentant anti-vaxxer who loudly and proudly proclaims his rampant stupidity for all to hear. Role models who promote reckless behavior, wanton disregard for community health and defiance of common sense are public menaces. Bevin’s endorsement of monumental inanity, like the thousands of American parents who think similarly, should come with consequences (in his case, electoral defeat this coming November).

People whose conduct poses a public health risk need to suffer draconian sanctions that combine punishment and deterrence. Several non-mutually exclusive alternatives come to mind:

• Strict quarantine of unvaccinated households.

• Expulsion of unvaccinated children from school, school activities, and extra-curricular activities.

• Severe fines amounting to more than New York City’s thousand dollars. How about a fine for each day a child remains unprotected against measles?

• A medical expense fund consisting of fines of parents who refuse vaccination for their children or themselves.

• Jailing of at least one irresponsible parent.

• Repeal of all laws and regulations authorizing exceptions — including religious objections — to a vaccination mandate. Health and safety trump so-called religious rights.

• All of the above (my preference).

The anti-vaxx movement is another instance of the denial of scientific fact in favor of blind ignorance. We see this same attitude in this administration’s denial of climate change, attempts to defund or underfund scientific research and development, repeal of safety and health regulations, etc.

If this attitude had been around during the battle against polio during the 1940s and early 1950s, thousands more innocent victims would have faced a lifetime of paralysis while medical heroes like Jonas Salk and Albert Sabin, the developers of the polio vaccines, might have had to do jail time instead of receiving accolades for their ground-breaking achievements that saved countless lives.

This administration and Republican pandering to outright obliviousness and praise for anti-intellectualism do a terrible disservice to this country way beyond positioning us as the world’s laughingstock. Not only are they jeopardizing public health. They are also making America lose ground compared to nations where fact still trumps fiction.

Canandaigua Academy graduate Richard Hermann is a law professor, legal blogger, author of seven books and part-time resident of the Finger Lakes.