Government health officials say there have been 971 cases of measles in the United States so far this year, the most cases since 1994, when there were 963 cases for the entire year.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Thursday if current outbreaks in and around New York City continue into the fall, the United States could lose its status as a country that has eliminated measles.
“That loss would be a huge blow for the nation and erase the hard work done by all levels of public health,” a CDC statement said.
Measles was declared eliminated in the U.S. in 2000, and the CDC says one of the primary reasons is the availability and widespread use of a safe and effective vaccine.
Fighting anti-vaccine propaganda
The CDC, World Health Organization, and other experts are fighting propaganda from parents and anti-vaccine activists who refuse to inoculate their children, insisting the vaccine is dangerous.
“Again, I want to reassure parents that vaccines are safe, they do not cause autism. The greater danger is the disease that vaccination prevents,” CDC Director Robert Redfield said. “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.”
Before 1963, when the measles vaccine was considered perfected, the CDC says as many as 4 million Americans got the disease every year and up to 500 victims died.
The measles virus is highly contagious and is spread primarily by coughing and sneezing.
Along with the refusal of some people to vaccinate their children, the CDC says the current nationwide outbreak is linked to travelers who are suspected of bringing back the virus from countries with their own large outbreaks, including Israel, the Philippines and Ukraine. (VOA)
The number of measles cases confirmed in the United States in 2019 has reached 1,001, a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report said this week. As of last week, the total for 2019 had already reached the highest point in any year since 1992, when there were 2,237 cases of the infectious disease reported.
“The Department of Health and Human Services has been deeply engaged in promoting the safety and effectiveness of vaccines, amid concerning signs that there are pockets of undervaccination around the country,” Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said in a statement Thursday.
Azar reinforced the importance of vaccines in combating the outbreak.
“We cannot say this enough: Vaccines are a safe and highly effective public health tool that can prevent this disease and end the current outbreak. I encourage all Americans to talk to your doctor about what vaccines are recommended to protect you, your family, and your community from measles and other vaccine-preventable diseases,” he said.
Measles is highly contagious. The disease is usually spread through sneezing and coughing. It can linger in the air for up to two hours. Cases have been reported in more than half of U.S. states. New York has had the highest total, with nearly 700 cases reported this year.
Most of those cases have been in Orthodox Jewish communities in Brooklyn and Queens, where there are low vaccination rates. The New York City Department of Health said that as of Monday, 566 cases had been confirmed in those areas since September.
Clark County in Washington state had the second-largest outbreak in the U.S. this year with more than 70 cases reported. According to the CDC, the outbreaks in New York City and Rockland County, N.Y., threaten to nullify the nation’s status of having officially eliminated measles.
“That loss would be a huge blow for the nation and erase the hard work done by all levels of public health. The measles elimination goal, first announced in 1966 and accomplished in 2000, was a monumental task,” the CDC said in a May press release.
“Before widespread use of the measles vaccine, an estimated 3 [million] to 4 million people got measles each year in the United States, along with an estimated 400 to 500 deaths and 48,000 hospitalizations,” the release said. (VOA)