According to a CBS report, the CDC has reported that the number of measles cases in the US in 2011 was the largest since 1996. In 2000, measles had been eliminated from the US, but that’s changed dramatically in the ensuing decade. There were 222 cases in the US in 2011, about quadruple the number in an average year.
Part of the reason for this large increase are falling rates of vaccinations in Europe. Measles is then passed to the US by international travelers, infecting unvaccinated (or immune compromised) individuals. Measles is highly contagious; the largest outbreak was in Minneapolis, where all of the infections were traced back to one child who had picked up the disease in Kenya.
Unvaccinated individuals, who were eligible for vaccination, made up about ⅔ of the cases in the US. The remainder of the cases were children who were too young to be vaccinated, or other individuals presume to be immune (usually people born before 1957, when measles was very prevalent). In other words, vaccines would have stopped the disease almost in its tracks.
Let’s once again review why measles is bad. First, infected individuals can pass measles to immunocompromised individuals or infants who have yet to be vaccinated. Second, measles is not without serious complications like pneumonia, otitis media, and even death (about 0.5-1.0% of cases). And if you happen to contract measles in an area with substandard medical care, the death rate can be substantially higher.
Since most of the cases result from a lack of vaccination, we can point most of the blame on the anti-vaccination movement.
Get vaccinated. It saves lives!
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