Prior to the licensing and widespread use of the measles vaccine in 1968, it was not unusual to have more than 85,000 cases of measles in Texas alone. Despite an outbreak of measles among college students in the early 1990s, which had a variety of causes, overall rates of measles declined drastically since the late 1960s.
In 1998, the World Health Organization declared that measles would be eradicated worldwide by 2007. In 2000, public health officials declared measles to be eliminated from the US. But instead of being eliminated, it returned with a vengeance: the CDC reported 11 outbreaks in the US in 2013.
In 2014 it’s been even worse, with Texas and California hit particularly hard. When one looks at the numbers, they tend to say “Ah, only a couple of hundred cases, that’s not much.” But what they’re forgetting is this: Measles kills. Like most vaccine-preventable diseases, it doesn’t always kill, but once we reach a critical number of cases, the likelihood that one of those children will die becomes much greater. For measles, that’s 500 cases.
It’s been many years since we’ve seen more than 500 cases in the US. But this year, as of May 14, there have been 216 cases in the US. Ever closer, we inch towards that critical threshold.
And it’s not just measles. …
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Update: On May 29, the CDC reported 288 confirmed cases of measles so far this year. This surpasses the previous high of 220 cases in 2011. There is no doubt, measles is on the rise again.