What makes the return of measles so dangerous and disheartening?
It was declared eradicated, but more than 80 cases of measles in California – most occurring in children whose parents declined vaccination – mean we must redouble our efforts to vaccinate.
Here’s the latest update on the outbreak, and what you can do to protect your children and yourself.
By David Martin, President and CEO of VeinInnovations
The vaccine debate invites vitriol on both sides. The root of this intense ire is fear; fear of chemicals, of autism, of lessened herd immunity, of deadly diseases we once considered eradicated.
Measles was declared eradicated in the United States in 2000. (Elimination of a disease is defined by the absence of continuous disease transmission for one year or more in a specific geographical area.)
Measles Fast Facts
- •Measles can only survive in a human host. It is one of the most contagious diseases on earth. An infected person can spread the virus by coughing or sneezing. The virus can live for up to two hours in the airspace or on a surface where an infected person coughed or sneezed.
- •In 2004, there were only 34 cases of measles in the United States. In 2014 there were 644 cases in 27 states (with 23 total outbreaks.) It was the largest number of cases since 2000.
- •The measles, mumps and rubella vaccine was falsely linked to autism in 2008.
- •Measles is a leading cause of death among young children. In 2013, there were 145,700 global measles deaths. That’s 400 deaths a day, or 16 deaths an hour.
- •Global vaccination rates are rising. In 2013, 84 percent of children received one dose of the measles vaccine by age one. Measles vaccinations resulted in a 75 percent drop in measles deaths from 2000 and 2013.
- •No vaccine is 100 percent effective, but the measles vaccine is close. One dose of the vaccine is 93 percent effective at preventing measles. People that get two doses of vaccines enjoy a 97 percent efficacy rate.
The current outbreak of measles is disheartening, to say the least. As of this writing, the CDC has confirmed 84 cases of measles. The majority of the cases are in California, where statistically significant groups of parents have declined to vaccinate their children. People who refuse vaccines tend to cluster, damaging herd immunity and exacerbating outbreaks.
But in some areas, at least, the anti-vaccination trend shows modest signs of reversing. In Maricopa County, Arizona, health officials reported a 50 percent rise in vaccination requests from last year. Three clinics experienced such large surges that lines formed and extra nurses had to be called in.
Globally, eradication efforts continue with success. The World Health Organization reports that the measles vaccination prevented as estimated 15.6 million deaths. In 2013, about 205 million children were vaccinated in mass vaccination campaigns across 34 countries.
But more can be done. In populations with high rates of malnutrition and insufficient health care, up to 10 percent of measles cases end in death. Unvaccinated children have the highest risk of measles and resulting complications. Ninety-five percent of deaths due to measles happen in countries with low per-capita incomes and weak health infrastructures.
The Measles and Rubella Initiative is a global partnership to stop measles and rubella. It is a collaborative effort of the WHO, UNICEF, the American Red Cross, the CDC and the United Nations Foundation. You can learn more about the M&R Initiative (and make a donation to the worthy cause!) on their website, http://www.measlesrubellainitiative.org.
Looking to find a way to help at home? The best thing you can do is get vaccinated and make sure your kids are vaccinated, too.