From the “defying common sense” file, comes word that this year is on track to be the worst for measles in the United States in more than a decade.
That’s according to new statistics released last week by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
There were 159 cases of measles in the United States from Jan. 1 through Aug. 24, according to the CDC. If that trend continues, there will be more cases in 2013 than in any year since 1996, when some 500 cases were reported.
This is tragic when you consider that this highly contagious disease was thought to have been eradicated in the United States in 2000.
Prior to the use of the measles-mumps-rubella vaccination, measles cases in the United States numbered in the hundreds of thousands. Hundreds of those infected with measles would die yearly, tens of thousands would be hospitalized and around 1,000 cases would result in chronic disability.
Those numbers dropped dramatically throughout the 1960s after the advent of the vaccination.
So why the recent upswing in measles cases?
Health officials say it is because more people are refusing to vaccinate their children.
The disease is still being “imported” into the United States through international travelers and is finding fertile ground in some communities because of the percentage of people in those communities who are not vaccinated against measles.
Doctors call the spike in measles cases heartbreaking because it is completely preventable through vaccination.
Parents who choose not to vaccinate their children put other people’s babies at risk, since babies cannot be vaccinated until their first birthday, and are therefore vulnerable to the disease.
There is no debate over the efficacy of the measles vaccine. Vaccines for measles are safe, effective and save lives.
Not vaccinating your children for this disease is inexcusable.
Yet in a country which arguably has the world’s greatest health care, the most evolved communication and information systems and the most educated consumers, measles is making a comeback.