U.S. Measles at All-Time High


Measles virus. 3D illustration showing structure of measles virus with surface glycoprotein spikes heamagglutinin-neuraminidase and fusion protein

Rachel Lee, Staff Writer

Although measles was deemed contained in the 2000s, recent records reveal that measles in the U.S. is at record-breaking levels. For the first time in 25 years, there are already over 700 total cases reported just this year.

According to the doctors at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), measles ranks among the highest on the list of most contagious diseases. Despite this, the only way to contract the measles virus is through direct contact, being in close proximity to someone currently infected with the virus. In addition, measles can be extremely life-threatening and may lead to permanent brain damage, deafness, or encephalitis, which is inflammation of the brain. According to the CDC, 1 or 2 out of 1,000 children with measles die from the virus. Most fatalities from the virus have been reported in the European Union, and the outbreak is continuing to spread at an alarming rate on a global scale.

“When we see large measles outbreaks in countries that are common destinations for U.S. travelers like we’re seeing this year,” James Goodson, a CDC senior measles scientist says, “that’s when we often see the largest number of measles cases in the U.S.

Scientists have linked the root of the spread to parents who have chosen not to vaccinate their children. In response, officials at the CDC have urged parents to immunize their children to curb the alarming spread of measles. CDC recommends two doses of MMR for children, which gives up to 97% protection from the virus.

A major contributor to this year’s massive outbreak lies in the anti-vaccination movement. Dr. Nancy Messonier, CDC Director of Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, believes “it’s a matter of correcting myths” about vaccination. Although health officials have not been successful in convincing anti-vaxxers about the safety of vaccination, schools and child-care programs in New York have started to prohibit unvaccinated children and staff from attending without proper vaccination records.

President Donald Trump recently released a statement announcing his support for vaccination, which stands in stark contrast to his tweet in 2014 saying, “Healthy young child goes to [a] doctor, gets pumped with massive shot of many vaccines, doesn’t feel good and changes – AUTISM. Many such cases!”

Despite his plans to create a vaccine safety panel during the initial days of his administration, President Trump has not taken additional steps toward criticizing nor advocating for vaccination.

Graphic courtesy of GIVING.MASSGENERAL.ORG