The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say that there have been 971 known cases of measles in in 26 state in the US so far this year, surpassing the number of cases during the last outbreak in 1994. Public health officials blame lower vaccination rates based on misinformation for the current surge in infected people. Public health officials blame lower vaccination rates based on misinformation for the current surge in infected people.
As many as four million people got measles each year in the United States before the vaccine became widely used, according to the C.D.C., with an estimated 400 to 500 deaths and 48,000 hospitalizations annually. Before the measles vaccine was introduced in 1963, major outbreaks were a common global occurrence, with two to three outbreaks occurring annually. These outbreaks led to approximately 2.6 million deaths each year.
After decades of work by public health officials to educate the public about the importance of vaccination, measles was eliminated as an endemic disease in the United States in 2000. While the elimination status didn’t mean the disease was completely eradicated, it meant that the country had gone more than 12 months without “continuous disease transmission.”
The C.D.C. pointed to a continuing outbreak in New York City and Rockland County, N.Y., as posing a particular public health threat. There have been 550 confirmed cases of measles in New York City since September 2018. Rockland County officials said another 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.
All 50 states and the District of Columbia require vaccinations for children entering kindergarten, however all states also provide medical exemptions to these requirements and some states also offer exemptions for religious and philosophical reasons. Some states are taking precautionary measures to stop the outbreak. Maine became the fourth state, along with California, Mississippi and West Virginia, to end most nonmedical exemptions for childhood vaccines. Earlier this year, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio declared a state of emergency in heavily Hasidic portions of Brooklyn, mandating that people who have not been vaccinated receive fines. Health workers have been offering free vaccines in the affected Brooklyn neighborhoods.
Measles is highly contagious and if one person has it, 90% of the people close to that person who are not immune will also become infected. The measles virus can live for up to two hours in a space where the infected person coughed or sneezed. If other people breathe the contaminated air or touch the infected surface, then touch their eyes, noses, or mouths, they can become infected. Infected people can spread measles to others from four days before through four days after the rash appears- meaning infected people are spreading the disease before they even know they have it.
The best protection against measles is measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine, which provides long-lasting protection against all strains of measles. Your child needs two doses of MMR vaccine for best protection – the first dose at 12 through 15 months of age, the second dose 4 through 6 years of age.