US measles epidemic hits 1123 cases – get the MMR vaccine – UPDATED

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Department of Health and Human Services have reported that the ongoing measles epidemic has, as of 11 July 2019, has resulted in 1123 cases in 28 states. This an increase of 14 cases since the last report. This makes 2019 (which is just over 6 months old) the worst year for measles since 1992, when there were 963 cases for all 12 months. 

At this rate, we can expect well over 2000 measles cases for 2019, making it the worst year since the major measles epidemics of the late 1980s. 

In 2000, the CDC had stated that measles was eradicated in the USA. But as a result of fears and misinformation about the MMR vaccine, which protects against measles, mumps, and rubella, vaccination rates have dropped allowing measles to again attack children.

Measles cases by year.

US measles epidemic, 2019 version

Of course, much of this misinformation about the MMR vaccine can be laid at the feet of that cunning fraud, Andrew Wakefield. Despite the preponderance of the evidence that refutes the claims that the MMR vaccine is linked to autism, parents’ fears remain. 

Much of the 2019 US measles epidemic can be tied to outbreaks in three areas – Washington state along with Rockland County and Brooklyn, NY Orthodox Jewish communities. Most of the measles cases have been in unvaccinated individuals.

As a result of these particular outbreaks during the 2019 US measles epidemic, 

Measles season

Vincent Iannelli, MD, wrote about “measles seasons” at Vaxopedia (one of the best vaccine myth debunking sites). I was unaware that there were seasonal variations in measles incidence, but here are the key times for measles outbreaks:

  • during the late winter and early spring (temperate climates, like the United States)
  • after the rainy season (tropical climates)
  • when kids are in school

Dr. Iannelli writes that it’s always measles season somewhere. So, even as the number of cases has slowed down during the summer in the USA, people can travel with their unvaccinated children to areas that may be experiencing a measles epidemic and bring it back to other unvaccinated individuals, including those who cannot be vaccinated.

Vaccine

The CDC recommends the vaccine for everyone over a year old, except for individuals who had the disease as a child. The CDC recommends children get two doses of MMR vaccine, starting with the first dose at 12 through 15 months of age, and the second dose at 4 through 6 years of age.

This means that children under 12 months can be at risk of the disease from unvaccinated individuals, and it most dangerous to them.

US measles epidemic
Happy healthy children protected from measles by vaccines. Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Measles is not benign

Which leads me to remind everyone that measles is not a harmless disease, despite the false claims of the anti-vaccine religion. 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 early in life (which is in direct opposition of claims by anti-vaccine activists that it helps “boost” the immune system.
  • About 1-2 children, out of 1000 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).

The states that have reported cases to CDC are Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, New Mexico, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, Tennessee, Virginia, and Washington.

States that have reported measles cases to the CDC.

 

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 way over on the side of vaccines.

US measles epidemic
Healthy kids protected from measles. At least, we hope they are. Photo by Jeffrey F Lin on Unsplash

Summary of the US measles epidemic

The 2019 US measles epidemic has become a serious public health issue. Even though it hasn’t struck millions of children (thank you vaccines), the numbers are much higher than they have been over the past 25 years. 

Get the MMR vaccine. It is safe and effective, that is settled science.

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!