Measles Cases Hit Highest Level In U.S. In 25 Years
Thanks largely to anti-vaccination propaganda, the Centers for Disease Control reports that measles cases in the U.S. are at a level unseen in a quarter century.
In yet another sign of the continuing danger posed by the anti-vaccination movement and its propagandists, the Center for Disease Control has reported that measles cases in the United States have reached their highest level in 25 years:
There have been more measles cases in the United States the first five months of 2019 than there were in all of 1992, when the last large outbreak occurred, federal health officials said on Thursday, in part because of the spread of misinformation about vaccines.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Thursday that there had been 971 known cases of measles in the United States so far this year.
That is eight more cases than in 1992, the previous high since vaccines became widely used, when 963 cases were reported in the United States all year. And it is a sharp jump from last year, when just 372 cases were reported, the center said. (Earlier Thursday, the C.D.C. mistakenly said that the previous high was in 1994.)
“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,” Dr. Robert Redfield, the director of the C.D.C., said in a statement.
“Again, I want to reassure parents that vaccines are safe, they do not cause autism,” he added. “The greater danger is the disease that vaccination prevents.”
The center pointed to a continuing outbreak in New York City and Rockland County, N.Y., as posing a particular public health threat.
There had been 500 confirmed cases of measles in New York City since September 2018 as of May 29, the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene said Thursday. Rockland County officials said 254 cases of measles had been reported there as of May 28.
Measles is a highly contagious virus that can cause serious respiratory symptoms, fever and rash, as well as permanent deafness or encephalitis in severe cases, according to the C.D.C.
The measles vaccine, which was first licensed in 1963 , is extremely safe and effective and causes no side effects in a majority of cases. Small numbers of people may experience a mild fever, rash, soreness or swelling after receiving the vaccine, and adults and teenagers may feel soreness or stiffness, according to the C.D.C.
This report from the C.D.C. is just the latest example of the resurgence of a disease that had been officially declared as eliminated as an endemic disease in the United States in 2000. This did not mean that there were no measles cases in the United States, of course, but that the country had gone at least a year without what the C.D.C. refers to as “continuous disease transmission.” Since that declaration, there have been smaller outbreaks reported in isolated parts of the country, but there was no indication of a more widespread problem.
All of that changed in the past several years and this is just one of many recent reports we’ve seen regarding the reemergence of measles as a public health threat around the world and in the United States and Europe, where authorities had been getting ready to declare the disease “eradicated.” Last year, for example, we learned that measles cases were raging in many parts of Europe where the disease had previously believed to have been nearly eradicated. In 2013 it was reported that the number of measles cases in the United States had hit a 17-year high. A year later, the number of cases was continuing to rise, hitting a 20-year-high by the summer of 2014. Then, in the summer of 2015, the United States recorded its first death as a result of measles in more than a decade. Finally, late last year it was reported that measles cases had surged worldwide in 2017, the most recent year for which there is complete data. Most recently, it was reported by the C.D.C. that measles cases in the United States had surged in the first two months of the year.
As the report above indicates, one of the main reasons that these diseases are making a come back is due to the fact that the anti-vaccination movement continues to have an impact on the decisions that parents are making for their children. There have, of course, always been a fringe crowd of people who questioned the value of vaccines, objected to them for religious reasons, or objected to them because of misinformation and lies that have spread on the Internet faster than they can be debunked by actual medical professionals. However the number of people who believed these things were so small that they didn’t have much of an impact on the country as a whole. Thanks to a movement motivated by pseudo-science and conspiracy theories, though, anti-vaccination propaganda remains prevalent and, thanks to the Internet, easy to spread.
To a large degree, of course, this all started with the now discredited theory regarding a link between childhood vaccines and autism. This claim traces its origins back to a paper that was published in 1998 in the prestigious British medical journal Lancet. That report’s principal author, Andrew Wakefield, claimed to have found a link between autism in children and the MMR vaccine commonly given as part of the regular childhood vaccination schedule. While public health officials and experts, drug companies, and many epidemiologists pushed back on that report, for the better part of a decade it stood relatively unchallenged as the definitive word on the issue and quite obviously helped to feed parent’s fears. Wakefield’s study led to anti-vaccination movements that were made popular by celebrities in the United States and elsewhere, as well as by medical cranks eager to hitch their stars to anything halfway credible.
Slowly but surely, though, Wakefield’s study came to be questioned by the medical community as a whole and, in 2010, Lancet eventually formally withdrew the report. Roughly a year later, it was revealed that the original study that formed the basis for the report was fraudulent. Most importantly, in the entire 17 year period since Wakefield’s study, no other researcher has ever been able to duplicate his purported results or to find any statistically significant correlation between autism and childhood vaccinations. In 2015, a study published in the Journal Of The American Medical Association definitively found no evidence of a link between autism and childhood vaccination. This conclusion was verified recently by another study that found no discernable link between vaccines and autism. Despite all of this, the anti-vaccination movement, like many other ideas that are spread on the Internet, continues to exist and it continues to have an impact on public health. Despite this, the damage was done.
The fact that the claims of a link between vaccination and autism had been debunked, though, has not prevented the myth from continuing to spread. In no small part, the continued spread of these dangerous lies can be laid at the feet of celebrities such as Jenny McCarthy, and more recently The Big Bang Theory’s Miyam Bialik and Clueless star Alicia Silverstone. Even Donald Trump got into the act before becoming a candidate for President, using his Twitter account to spread the myths of the anti-vaccine movement. and it is apparently something he still believes. The platform that celebrity gives people like this, along with how easy it is to share “information” that isn’t necessarily true via Email, Twitter, Facebook and the light makes combating anti-vaccine propaganda difficult at times, especially when you run up against parents who truly seem to believe that they are acting in their child’s best interests by refusing to have them vaccinated.
It’s in this context that this resurgence in measles cases is taking place. What is both remarkable and frustrating is the fact that so many people can be so ignorant in an age when our knowledge of science and medicine is so much more advanced than it was when vaccination first became widespread. Back then, people were grateful for something that could save their children from the scourge of deadly or debilitating diseases. Today, we actually have people rejecting vaccination based on something a brainless celebrity said. This is progress?