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Measles are rising. Last week, the US recorded 90 cases, making the outbreak the second largest in more than two decades this year.
So far, the US has confirmed 555 measles cases this year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced on Monday. This is 50 percent more than the total number registered last year, although by 2019 we have covered only about a quarter of the way.
And the virus is not slowing down.
"The number of cases is accelerating," says Dr. Amanda Cohn, a lead vaccine consultant at the CDC. "We are well on the way to reporting one of the highest levels of measles since we eliminated the disease in 2000."
The majority of new cases are related to an outbreak in New York City and New York State Says Cohn.
"This is a very significant outbreak," she says. "These cases were imported from other countries but due to the low number of vaccines in these communities, the measles world is spreading in these communities."
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Last week, New York City called a public health emergency in an ultra-Orthodox community in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, and the New York City Health Department is calling on parents to vaccinate their children, otherwise they could be fined of $ 1,000. 19659008] The CDC pointed to four other locations with continuing outbreaks in the US: Clark County, Washington; Oakland County, Michigan; two counties in New Jersey; and a handful of counties across California.
Health officials say there are two main reasons for the increase in the virus: more international travel and lower vaccination coverage.
Massive measles outbreaks are currently occurring in several countries around the world. In Madagascar, more than 100,000 cases have been recorded since the fall, with more than 1,200 deaths. In Ukraine, about 37,000 cases were registered this year. And the European Union counts about a thousand cases a month.
Worldwide, the World Health Organization (WHO) reports that the number of measles quadrupled in the first quarter of 2019 compared to four-fold at the time.
Other American families bring measles home after a trip abroad, says Cohn. And once the disease has landed nationwide, it has a better chance of gaining a foothold because in some places the vaccination rates have dropped below 93 to 95 percent, the threshold required to protect the entire community.
"If you decide not to vaccinate your child, please understand that you will make that decision for the people around your child," said Deputy Mayor of Health and Human Services, Herminia Palacio, on Wednesday NPR.
Measles can be an extremely serious disease. About 25 percent of infected children are in the hospital. About 10 percent of children develop ear infections, which can lead to permanent hearing damage. In about 1 in 1,000 cases, the infection becomes life-threatening. In these cases, the virus moves in the brain causing encephalitis and convulsions. Children can be deaf, blind or mentally retarded – when they recover.
Before the development of measles vaccine in the 1960s, the United States recorded nearly half a million cases every year, says the CDC. About 48,000 children were hospitalized and about 500 people died each year.
"We eliminated measles from this country in 2000, and … I think we've eliminated the memory of this virus," Dr. Paul Offit from the Children's Hospital in Philadelphia of the NPR Weekend Edition Sunday. "People do not remember how sick it could make you."