Washington, DC – From January 1 to April 26, 2019, 704 individual cases of measles have been confirmed in 22 states, according to US government data. This is the greatest number of cases reported in the US since 1994 and since measles was declared eliminated in 2000.
Commenting on the outbreak, HHS Secretary Alex Azar said in a statement, “The United States is seeing a resurgence of measles, a disease that had once been effectively eliminated from our country. And today, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has confirmed that ongoing measles outbreaks in 22 states has led to the highest number of cases reported nationwide since the disease was declared eliminated in this country in 2000. Measles is not a harmless childhood illness, but a highly contagious, potentially life-threatening disease.”
President Donald Trump also threw his weight behind vaccines as the news spread of recent measles outbreaks in different areas of the country. Although this is Trump doing an about-face on his previous claims linking child vaccinations to autism, it’s a welcome move.
Although the US declared itself measles-free in 2000, it is emerging that unvaccinated people are responsible for the outbreaks from time to time, including now, while the vaccine has been available for more than 50 years. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that two doses of the Measles, Mumps and Rubella (MMR) vaccine are 97 percent effective in preventing the disease while a single dose is 93 percent effective.
“All Americans would be safer and healthier if we received measles vaccines on the recommended schedule,” Secretary Azar said, adding, “Vaccines are a safe, highly effective public health solution that can prevent this disease. The measles vaccines are among the most extensively studied medical products we have, and their safety has been firmly established over many years in some of the largest vaccine studies ever undertaken.
While more than 700 people have been infected by the ongoing outbreak of measles – a highly contagious but preventable disease – the latest resurgence in the United States is reaching high figures since the disease was declared eliminated in the country, and federal health officials are not denying chances of more cases this year.
A major offshore outbreak is on the “Freewinds” ship, a cruise ship that is owned by the Church of Scientology, which was quarantined in the Caribbean island of Santa Lucia due to a confirmed measles case. Although Scientology doesn’t have an official stand on vaccinations, there have been instances when prominent members of the group have raised voices against vaccinations.
During the recent National Infant Immunization Week, the Department of Health and Human Services undertook a comprehensive campaign to reinforce the message, “vaccines are safe and effective ways to protect your children, your family, yourself, and your neighbors.”
HHS Secretary Azar noted that, “With a safe and effective vaccine that protects against measles, the suffering we are seeing is avoidable. The CDC is ready to support public health departments in monitoring and responding to outbreaks, and will continue to receive, review, and compile the latest reports of measles cases.”