Saturday, January 31, 2015

Measles Continues to Make a Comeback

Childhood diseases that were virtually eliminated by childhood vaccination programs over the past 50 years are beginning to show up again. For example, on average there were fewer than 100 cases of measles per year between 2001 and 2013. Last year alone there were 644 cases - more than a 5-fold increase in a single year! The majority of the persons who contracted measles in 2014 were unvaccinated. The latest outbreak apparently began at Disneyland in December with a family of four who had not been vaccinated. By the end of January there were 54 more cases, 40 of them Disneyland park employees or visitors.

Measles is one of the most contagious viral infections known. On average, a person with measles will infect 12-18 people who are unvaccinated. In contrast, a person with the flu only infects 1-4 other people. Fortunately, there's been vaccine against measles for the past 50 years. The vaccine is 97% effective if the person has received the two prescribed doses, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). But with more and more parents choosing not to have their children vaccinated there's always the potential for an outbreak such as the one we're having now. This outbreak is simply not a surprise. I first discussed the resurgence of measles more than six years ago (see this blog Aug. 25, 2008), when the number of measles cases spiked up briefly.

I won't beat around the bush here; I hold the anti-vaccine movement responsible for the recent resurgence of preventable infectious diseases.  I'm disappointed when people deliberately choose to remain uninformed.

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