More measles than ever before (in the last 20 years)

Measles is back, and it’s worse than it has been in 20 years, in terms of the number of cases reported in the first five months of the year. The causes for this are many. Anti-vaccine messages are not helping, and neither is the fact that the world is becoming smaller.

A few posts ago, I told you what needed to happen for measles to no longer be considered an eliminated disease in North America. Today comes word from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that the number of reported and confirmed measles cases in the first 5 months of 2014 is higher than the number for the same period of time since 1994. In other words, we haven’t had this much measles between January and May in 20 years.

Graphically:

We're going to need a lot of MMR.

We’re going to need a lot of MMR.

I’m not going to lie to you and tell you that this is strictly the result of people refusing to be vaccinated. They’re not helping, and they’re contributing the decline of herd immunity within certain communities in the country. Against all evidence, they continue to spread fear about a relatively harmless intervention against a very harmful disease.

The other reason we’re seeing this increase is that the world has gotten smaller. More and more people from this country and others can travel to places where measles is endemic (happening all the time), and they bring it back with them. In essence, efforts to contain this thing here are barely keeping up with the push from this very infectious virus “there.” So whatever we’re doing here, we need to do there.

One of those things is vaccination, and there are plenty of groups trying to vaccinate everyone. Universal measles vaccination will lead to its eradication, but what will lead to universal measles vaccination? That’s the 64 million dollar question.

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