2019 measles epidemic still going strong – the MMR vaccine stops it

As of 10 May 2019, the CDC has reported 839 cases in the 2019 measles epidemic – the vast majority of these individuals were unvaccinated. As a result, this year is the worst for measles in the USA since 1994, just prior to the startup of the Vaccines for Children Program (VCP) that provides free vaccines to US children.

VCP was passed into law as a consequence of another measles epidemic, from  1989-91, that resulted in over 55,000 reported cases of measles, 11,000 measles-related hospitalization, and 123 deaths. It’s amazing what vaccines can do.

2019 measles epidemic
Huge increase in the number of cases. Thanks to the anti-vaxxers

All about measles

Measles is caused by the measles virus. Measles is an airborne disease which spreads easily from the coughs and sneezes of individuals infected by the virus. 

Symptoms typically begin 10-14 days after exposure. However, the infected individual may be contagious prior to the onset of symptoms. The symptoms include a four-day fever and the three “C’s” – coughing, coryza (head cold, fever, and sneezing), and conjunctivitis (red eyes).

Of course, the most visible symptom is the typical maculopapular rash, or red spots, common to almost all measles patients. By the time this rash appears, the individual may have spread the diseases to a large number of unvaccinated individuals.

Despite the false claims of the anti-vaccine religion, measles is not a benign disease. it is not harmless. It is not safe to bring children to “measles parties” to deliberately infect the child with the disease.

According to the CDC, some of the many measles complications are:

  • About 30% of measles cases develop one or more complications.
  • Pneumonia, which is the complication that is most often the cause of death in young children.
  • Ear infections occur in about 1 in 10 measles cases and permanent loss of hearing can result.
  • Diarrhea is reported in about 8% of cases.
  • As many as 1 out of every 20 children with measles gets pneumonia.
  • About 1 child in every 1,000 who get measles will develop encephalitis, an inflammation of the brain that can lead to convulsions, deafness, and other long-term neurological deficits.
  • A measles infection can result in short- and long-term immune system dysfunction which can leave the child susceptible to other diseases.
  • About 1-2 children who contract measles may develop subacute sclerosing panencephalitis (SSPE), a rare chronic, progressive encephalitis that affects primarily children and young adults– it is caused by a persistent infection of the measles virusThe disease starts with measles infection, usually before the age of 2 years, followed by approximately 6-15 asymptomatic years. Some researchers think the asymptomatic period is around 5-8 years after the initial disease. Gradually, the disease progresses with psychological and neurological deterioration, which can include personality changes, seizures, and coma. It is always ultimately fatal.
  • And sadly, for every 1,000 children who get measles, 1 or 2 will die from it.

These measles complications are more common among children under 5 years of age and adults over 20 years old (usually those with lapsed immunity).

Even in previously healthy children, measles can be a serious illness requiring hospitalization. Measles also can make a pregnant woman have a miscarriage, give birth prematurely, or have a low-birth-weight baby.

There is only one good way to prevent measles unless you want your child to live in a hermetically-sealed bubble forever – get the MMR vaccine.

Serious complications to measles can be as high as 3 out of every 10 children who get the disease. Serious complications from the MMR vaccine is approximately 1 out of every 1 million vaccine doses. The benefit to risk calculation is overwhelmingly on the side of vaccines.

The 2019 measles epidemic across states

2019 measles epidemic

Individual measles cases have been reported in 23 states, so the epidemic is relatively widespread.

So, why is the 2019 measles epidemic so bad? There are two major reasons:

  1. There has been a spread of measles in communities with pockets of unvaccinated individuals. The vaccination rate in many of these communities falls below the 95% level necessary for a herd effect
  2. There has also been an increase in the number of individuals who travel to areas where measles is endemic, and, because they are unvaccinated or have lapsed immunity, bring the disease back to the USA.

Interestingly, California, which makes up about 12% of the US population in 2019, should then have around 100 of the 839 cases of measles. However, only 44 cases of measles have been reported in the state.

It is clear that the increased vaccination rates, spurred by SB277 which eliminated personal belief exemptions to vaccinations, has mitigated the spread of the measles in the state.

Let’s stop this measles epidemic – get the MMR vaccine for your children.

And if you’re an adult born between 1957 and 1967, you were either not vaccinated or received an ineffective vaccine (that has not been used since 1967). Anyone born before 1957 probably contracted measles from the annual epidemics that hit schools.

Of course, even if you’re unsure of your vaccination status, you can get the MMR vaccine. Getting it again does no harm. 

So, let me correct what I wrote above. Let’s stop this measles epidemic by getting everyone vaccinated. 

Citations



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The Original Skeptical Raptor
Chief Executive Officer at SkepticalRaptor
Lifetime lover of science, especially biomedical research. Spent years in academics, business development, research, and traveling the world shilling for Big Pharma. I love sports, mostly college basketball and football, hockey, and baseball. I enjoy great food and intelligent conversation. And a delicious morning coffee!