In case you have not yet heard, the childhood disease known simply as measles is on the rise again, after decades of vaccinations saw it nearly eradicated. As a matter of fact the first three months of this year has already seen more measles cases than all of last year. More importantly, this is the second highest-number of reported measles cases since the health officials in the United States declared the highly-contagious—and potentially deadly—disease all but “eliminated” in 2000.
Prior to the introduction of the vaccine, in 1963, measles deaths would range between 450 and 500 every single year in the United States. Since the year 2000, there have only been three reported measles deaths: two in 2003 and one in 2015.
Last year, 372 cases were reported the entire year—and these were contained to only three metropolitan areas: New York, New York City, and New Jersey. The latest outbreak, though, is already up to a count of 387 cases across 15 states in only these first three months of the year. Experts warn that a majority of these outbreaks are the result of unvaccinated people traveling from the United States to other parts of the world (including Europe, Israel, and the Philippines) where measles infections are more common. These people, then, returned to the United States after contracting the disease.
Measles symptoms include fever, cough, and a runny nose—which are normal for any respiratory infection—but also include a full-body rash. The disease is quite uncomfortable and miserable but typically not deadly. A few people—particularly young children, the elderly, and those with weak or compromised immune systems—can suffer additional complications like pneumonia or even swelling of the brain.
While any outbreak is certainly worthy of some concern, the bigger underlying issue, in this case, is vaccination—or lack thereof. There has been a swarm of misinformation, of late, that vaccinations are unnecessary or even dangerous. While none of these claims have been proven—and while they may also be worthy of some concern—the mass “anti-vax” movement has definitely contributed to the dramatic rise in near-eradicated diseases, this year.