What's Behind the US Measles Outbreak?
May 13 2019 Read 571 Times
While measles was supposedly eliminated from the US in 2000, a recent outbreak has seen cases hit a record high. Already, the total number of reported cases in 2019 has reached 695, with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) expecting the figure to continue rising throughout the year. This surpasses the 667 cases reported in 2014 and has prompted the organisation to warn that measles could re-emerge as a genuine threat to national health.
“The high number of cases in 2019 is primarily the result of a few large outbreaks — one in Washington State and two large outbreaks in New York that started in late 2018,” reads a statement issued by the CDC in April. “The outbreaks in New York City and New York State are among the largest and longest lasting since measles elimination in 2000. The longer these outbreaks continue, the greater the chance measles will again get a sustained foothold in the United States.”
Parental resistance to vaccines blamed for measles spike
Experts blame the spike in cases on failure to vaccinate children against infectious diseases like measles. From 2010 to 2017 an estimated 169 million children around the world were not vaccinated against the highly contagious virus. This has helped fuel the measles resurgence in the United States, as well as other countries like Australia and the UK. The trend against vaccinations in high-income countries has received widespread criticism from organisations like UNICEF, which promotes protection through events like World Immunisation Week.
Robin Nandy, Chief of Immunisation at UNICEF New York City asserts, "It is unfortunate where we stand in 2019 on measles control, given the fact that we have such an effective, safe and, very importantly, inexpensive vaccine available."
USA fuels anti-vaccination trend
The United States was the biggest culprit, with parents failing to vaccinate more than 2.5 million children between 2010 and 2017. France had the second highest number with more than 600,000 unvaccinated children, while the United Kingdom was close behind with just over half a million.
“Measles is no longer only a problem of low-income countries or conflict-affected countries,” warns Nandy. “It’s a risk everywhere.”
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