Infectious disease specialists commenting in The Lancet Infectious Diseases say that there are two factors that have contributed to the new measles outbreak in the US. The first is travelers from countries where there are currently measles outbreaks. The other is the strength of the anti-vaccination faction, which has caught on wildly and discouraged people from getting vaccinations or vaccinating their children. Combined, these factors are wreaking havoc with infectious diseases in the States.
A measles epidemic – an infectious disease crisis
As of June of 2019, more than one thousand cases of the measles have been reported in 22 states. That’s already the most of any year since the year 2000, when the measles was officially declared eradicated. Many countries in Europe have already been slammed by a measles epidemic, and the US seems on target to join them. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lists the countries most contributing to the outbreak, and they include at the top of the list China, India, Mexico, and Japan. Researchers have recommended higher monitoring of people entering the United States from these countries.
The CDC says that Measles cases are at a twenty-five year high, and it’s looking like it will continue to increase. If so, the US will be in danger of losing its measles elimination status.
Riding on the vocal protests to the anti-vax movement, governments in counties most at-risk have begun campaigns educating their populations about the disease and its implications. Some of their tactics are local banners and meetings and a print and web advertising operation.
Many of these efforts have been successful, as hundreds of vaccinations have been ordered by people who neglected to get them earlier. Many people seem to have been swayed by the vociferous passions of the anti-vax community, but when faced with the facts, and the possibility of dealing with the measles in real time, have been influenced otherwise.
There have been almost 700 confirmed cases in the state of New York, with more than 100 cases of Measles in Rockland County, NY, and over fifty in New York City. Howard Zucker, MD., the State Health Commissioner, told CNN that this is the biggest breakout he can remember since vaccinations became standard. “We have immunized 13,000 children since this outbreak has begun. I would say this is the largest measles outbreak that New York state has had in recent history.”
How Measles spread
Measles live in the nose and throat of an infected person, and can incubate for two weeks before symptoms manifest. However, during that time, it can spread to others through coughing and sneezing.
Infectious diseases usually spread rapidly between people. Measles is very contagious, becoming airborne, and can remain so for up to two hours. If one person is infected, nearly 90% of people exposed to that person who have not been vaccinated will get measles.
Before the vaccination was developed in 1963, the US saw 48,000 hospitalizations annually due to the measles, resulting in 400-500 deaths every year. Although it’s been eliminated in the US, it’s still a fatal disease, causing about 100,000 deaths every year, mostly affecting children below the age of 5.
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