Reported measles cases exceeded 1,000 in the first six months of 2019 — the highest number in 27 years, according to the most recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data.
The total in the U.S. has grown to 1,022, the CDC reported. That’s the highest since 1992, where there were 2,200 cases nationwide.
Cases have been reported in 28 states and outbreaks are ongoing in seven communities, according to the CDC. Factors that may prompt outbreaks: a greater number of travelers who contract the disease abroad and more cases spreading in communities with groups of unvaccinated people.
The resurgence of measles has caused widespread concern and a surge of proposed new laws. Officials in the New York City suburb of Rockland County barred minors not vaccinated for measles from public places for 30 days, and Gov. Jay Inslee declared a state of emergency in Washington.
Thomas Clark, deputy director of the CDC’s Division of Viral Diseases, said measles isn’t widespread yet. He said about 94 percent of kindergartners in the U.S. have received the recommended two doses of the measles vaccine.
The CDC’s concerns about measles’ spread will focus more on summer camps and travel with schools letting out for the summer, Clark said.
”We can’t rely on the summer months to stop and slow down the spread of measles,” Clark said. “We’re worried about summer camps and summer travel.”
Clark advised people traveling abroad to check out their vaccination status.
”I hope people continue to be confident in vaccination,” he said.
Ogbonnaya Omenka, an associate professor and public health specialist at Butler University, echoed Clark’s concerns about summer travel, and noted the risk that comes with increased social interaction in public spaces.
”Travel has played a significant role in the current outbreak. The summer holiday comes with more local and international travel, which may result in exposure to measles,” Omenka wrote to USA TODAY. “Also, social interactions are more likely during the summer, such as attendance at parks and recreation destinations, and neighborhood gatherings.”
Omenka also spoke on the importance of understanding the social and behavioral factors impacting the outbreak. He said a consequence of media and public health officials focusing on “anti-vaxxers,” could be a distrust of medical institutions.
“Concentrating on, or making scapegoats of, certain groups may result in unintended outcomes, such as increased distrust or anti-establishment sentiments and insularity,” Omenka wrote.
Jennifer Margulis, science writer and co-author of “The Vaccine-Friendly Plan,” said health and public officials’ focus on measles is disproportionate compared to the number of children afflicted with chronic conditions, citing an estimated 32 million.
”I wonder why we’re focusing on measles and not on chronic disease,” Margulis said. “We aren’t focusing on what’s really happening with our children.
Stuart Fischbein, an obstetrician based in southern California, finds issue with jurisdictions passing legislation requiring vaccination.
”When you start mandating then you’re basically destroying medicine,” Fischbein said. “You’re making doctors agents of the state.”
David Lo, distinguished professor of biomedical sciences at the University of California Riverside, however, said low rates of vaccination in the U.S. have “been like a bomb waiting to go off.”
”Vaccines remain our only significant defense, and investment in new vaccine development is as low as it has ever been,” Lo said.
Read more at usatoday.com