In 2000, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention declared measles to be eradicated from the United States. So why are we facing the worst measles outbreak in 30 years?
Two decades ago, a now-debunked study suggested that there was a link between vaccinations and autism. Despite all the scientific evidence to the contrary, the anti-vaccination movement has helped lower vaccination rates, making Americans vulnerable to diseases that had been all but eliminated.
As of June 20, 2019, there have been 1,077 confirmed cases of the measles in the United States. As recently as 2016, there were only 86. Of those, 62% were associated with international travel, according to the CDC.
In 1998, a British doctor named Andrew Wakefield published a study claiming a link between vaccinations and autism. Dozens of studies have discredited those findings. The journal that originally published Wakefield’s study retracted it. The British Medical Journal even called it “fraudulent.”
The reason even a small dip in vaccination rates can be dangerous is due to a concept called “herd immunity.” When enough people in a community are immune to the disease, it stops the spread of the disease.
Herd immunity is especially important for those who are more vulnerable to a disease. In the case of measles, that would include children under the age of 1, who are too young to be vaccinated, and those with weakened immune systems. For measles, the vaccination rate necessary to create herd immunity is estimated to be between 93% and 95%.
Public health danger
Measles is considered a highly contagious disease. A single cough or sneeze can cause the virus to linger in the air for two hours, according to the CDC. On average, 90% of those without immunity who are exposed to measles will contract it.
History shows us what that can mean. Before the measles vaccine was introduced in 1963, virtually all children contracted the disease. An estimated 3-4 million people were infected each year. Each year 48,000 were hospitalized, 1,000 suffered swelling of the brain, and 400 to 500 died.
Since the introduction of the vaccine, the number of measles cases has decreased by more than 99%.
What you can do
How can you stop the spread of measles? Get vaccinated!
The current schedule for the measles, mumps, and rubella—or MMR—vaccine, calls for one dose for children when they are between 12 and 15 months old, and a second when they are between 4 and 6 years old.
It is recommended that anybody over the age of 12 who has not been inoculated get the vaccine immediately. If you’re not sure whether you are vaccinated, a doctor can test to see if you have the antibody for measles.
Getting vaccinated is the best way to protect yourself and others from this highly preventable disease.
For more information about covered preventive services, check the WPS Health Insurance website.
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