US measles epidemic hits highest level in 25 years – blame vaccine refusal

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has reported that as of 24 April 2019 there have been 695 measles cases reported in 22 states. This makes 2019 (which is just 4 months old) the worst year for measles since 1994, when there were 963 cases for all 12 months.

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.

2019 US measles epidemic

US measles epidemic
Measles cases by year in the United States.

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, 

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 harmless

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.
  • 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 way over on the side of vaccines.

Summary

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

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!