Measles, which was thought to b eradicated in the U.S. in 2000 is back this year, reaching the highest number in a single year.
Most of us have no firsthand experience with measles and that lack of familiarity, along with the online success of the anti-vaccine movement, is giving a deadly but easily preventable virus an opening.
So far in 2019, there have been:
- 695 confirmed cases of measles in 22 states.
- More than 71 new confirmed cases reported in just the past week.
- 5 states reporting ongoing outbreaks as of Monday (at least 3 cases in one place counts as an outbreak).
According to the CDC, prior to 1963, between 3 and 4 million were infected each year and nearly all children got measles by the time they were 15 years old.
Now, due in large part to vaccination efforts that began in 1963, most Americans have no experience with the virus.
- Parents may be fooled into thinking that measles is a relatively mild disease, similar to the flu, and think vaccination is optional or not a priority.
- This is not only wrong, but it could have deadly consequences.
Measles can be particularly hazardous for babies and young children, he says.
- From 2001 to 2013, 28% of children younger than 5 years old who had measles had to be treated in the hospital, McDonald said, referring to relatively small outbreaks related to patients who traveled to the U.S. from regions where the disease is still active.
- “Some children develop pneumonia (a serious lung infection) or lifelong brain damage.”
Different vaccine-hesitant communities added together are causing vaccination rates to fall below effective immunity levels.
The CDC issued a stark warning Wednesday: “The longer these outbreaks continue, the greater the chance measles will again get a sustained foothold in the United States.”
What to watch: The widely reported health impacts from the ongoing outbreaks, including children in intensive care units and an El Al Airlines flight attendant in a coma, may spur people to be vaccinated.“I think unfortunately the best motivation… is that we’re having these outbreaks and people are really getting seriously ill,” Fauci says. “Those are the things that are going to jolt people into reconsidering this.”