U.S. measles outbreak worst in 25 years

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), reported yesterday (30th of May 2019) that this year the number of measles cases in the United States has reached 971 – a record number in the last 25 years.

According to the CDC report, these new cases are concentrated in and around New York City and Rockland County, N.Y. the report adds that the spread here is mostly among unvaccinated children within the Orthodox Jewish communities. Since September 2018 there have been 550 reported cases in the NYC and most of them came from unvaccinated population of the city.

Measles rash. Image Credit: Phichet Chaiyabin / Shutterstock
Measles rash. Image Credit: Phichet Chaiyabin / Shutterstock

The CDC warns that unvaccinated populations found in four Brooklyn ZIP codes could not be fined up to $1,000. United States had been declared free of measles with the virus declared eliminated says the CDC. In the recent years however there has been a rise in number of cases mostly due to inadequate vaccination of the children against the viral infection. By year 2000, concentrated vaccination drives and efforts had led to a elimination of measles virus in the US. Federal health officials said in a statement, “That loss would be a huge blow for the nation and erase the hard work done by all levels of public health.” “The measles elimination goal, first announced in 1963 and accomplished in 2000, was a monumental task,” the report says.

They add that the virus is bring brought back to the nation by those who travel out of the country without being vaccinated. These unvaccinated infected travellers bring back the infection and infect large populations of unvaccinated children.

Parents have been blamed for not vaccinating their children against measles in a combined vaccine MMR that protects against measles, mumps and rubella or German measles. These anti-vaxxers or people with conspiracy theories regarding safety of the vaccines have made claims connecting measles vaccine with autism in children. These claims have been proven to be false and baseless.

The World Health Organization (WHO) says that at least 95 to 98 percent population needs to be vaccinated against measles to achieve full immunity in the community. Vaccination cannot be given to all especially young babies and those with immune suppression. These vulnerable individuals benefit from large coverage of vaccination among the others. At present due to anti-vaccination propaganda, the rates of vaccination have dipped say the officials.

The CDC earlier this week had reported a total of 940 cases of measles. In 1994 a total of 963 cases were reported for the whole year. This means that the first five months numbers have surpassed the total numbers seen in 1994 say the officials. In 1992 there were a total of 2,200 measles cases throughout the year say the officials. According to the WHO, there have been over 82,500 cases of measles across Europe in the last year as a result of people with anti-vaccination stance. The organization adds that measles killed a total of around 110,000 people globally in 2017 and most of them were children under the age of 5 years. The WHO has declared anti-vaccination individuals as one of the top ten threats to global health this year. Some countries are endemic to measles including Israel, Brazil, Japan, Philippines, certain countries in Asia and Europe. Travel to them without vaccination is one of the reasons why infections are being carried back to the nation say the officials.

The CDC officials say that state and local awareness programs need to be strengthened to spread the word regarding safety and efficacy of the vaccination and need for vaccination of all children. CDC Director Robert Redfield said in a statement, “Your decision to vaccinate will protect your family's health and your community's well-being. CDC will continue working with public health responders across our nation to bring this outbreak to an end.”

Expert speak

Anthony Fauci of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases in a statement earlier this year said, “I consider it an irony that you have one of the most contagious viruses known to man juxtaposed against one of the most effective vaccines they have. Yet we don't do and have not done what could be done - namely eliminate, eradicate the virus.”

Dr. Robert Redfield said, “Measles is preventable and the way to end this outbreak is to ensure that all children and adults who can get vaccinated, do get vaccinated.” He added, “Again, I want to reassure parents that vaccines are safe, they do not cause autism. The greater danger is the disease that vaccination prevents.”

Dr. Ananya Mandal

Written by

Dr. Ananya Mandal

Dr. Ananya Mandal is a doctor by profession, lecturer by vocation and a medical writer by passion. She specialized in Clinical Pharmacology after her bachelor's (MBBS). For her, health communication is not just writing complicated reviews for professionals but making medical knowledge understandable and available to the general public as well.

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