We’re only three months into 2019, but the US has already experienced more measles cases than it did in the entirety of 2018. It goes without saying that the 387 people who became infected between January 1 and March 28 were unvaccinated.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), last year’s total of 372 measles cases occurred predominantly as a result of unvaccinated travelers entering the US from places like the Philippines, Ukraine, and Israel, all of which experienced outbreaks.
Measles was in fact eliminated in the US in 2000, but outbreaks still occur when infected people bring the disease with them or unvaccinated US citizens get infected while abroad. Once on US soil, the steadily rising anti-vaccine trend amongst both parents and those in power is allowing it to get a hold.
As we enter the second quarter of 2019, more Americans have come out in red splotches than in any other year since measles was eradicated – with the exception of 2014, when a massive outbreak among unvaccinated Amish communities in Ohio resulted in a huge annual total of 667.
The CDC declares an outbreak when three or more cases are reported within a geographical area, and says that outbreaks have already occurred in 15 states this year. These include Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Texas, and Washington.
Symptoms to look out for include high fever, skin rashes, puffy eyes, and a stuffy nose. Most people recover from measles in a few weeks, but in severe cases – those who are immunocompromised due to chemotherapy, for example, and thus can't be vaccinated – the virus can be deadly.
The measles, mumps and rubella vaccine is thought to be 97 percent effective, and the CDC strongly encourages everyone to get vaccinated – regardless of whether they are planning on traveling to countries where these illnesses are prevalent.