Do we have what it takes to stop the measles outbreak? Do we know how to prevent measles from spreading?
Measles was eliminated in the United States in 2000, but thanks to a growing anti-vaxx movement, it has come roaring back. It’s affecting several major metropolitan areas across the nation.
As of just a couple of weeks ago, there have been 1022 confirmed cases of measles in the United States. That happened despite public health officials’ best efforts to control the outbreak.
How can you protect yourself and your family? And how to prevent measles from spreading?
A Brief History of Measles
Measles was first documented in Boston in 1657, but it wasn’t until 1963 that the first vaccines became available to fight it. By 1971, a combined vaccine for measles, mumps, and rubella was introduced. And in 1989, schools began requiring children to receive two doses of the MMR vaccine which proved to be more effective than one dose.
By 2000, measles was eliminated in the United States. Unfortunately, in 1998, the medical journal Lancet published a fraudulent paper linking the MMR vaccine to autism in children. It began to undo the decades of hard work by researchers and medical professionals toward eliminating this disease.
Now, we are experiencing the highest numbers of measles cases since 1992.
Where Is Measles Making A Comeback?
So far, the majority of confirmed measles cases in the United States have come from travelers returning from overseas. New York state has been hit the hardest, with 466 confirmed cases of measles in New York City and other 215 confirmed cases in Rockland County, New York.
Washington State, Michigan, and California are also being hit hard by this resurgence. Also, in May, 318 people were quarantined on a Scientology cruise ship after a crew member contracted measles. It was discovered that only 41 of the people on board had previously been vaccinated.
The Fight Against The Spread of Measles
In response to the outbreak, state and local governments began to take serious actions to prevent the disease from spreading and potentially leading to deaths among infants, the elderly, and the medically fragile populations.
New York City ordered all residents to receive vaccinations or to pay a $1000 fine. This resulted in the administration of more than 20,000 vaccines. Rockland County offered vaccines for free and was able to administer 18,000 doses.
For a short time, New York City even banned unvaccinated children from public spaces, though that ban was later overturned.
Calls For Corporate Responsibility
One of the biggest threats to the movement to get people to trust their physicians again and believe in vaccines is the rampant misinformation that is so easy to access online. The President of the American Academy of Pediatrics wrote an open letter to Facebook, Google, and Pinterest about the uphill battle faced by physicians when parents resist vaccines for their children based on the misinformation they find so readily online.
Representative Adam Schiff of California, as well as the American Medical Association, all wrote similar letters in an effort to urge these businesses to help fight the spread of misinformation.
In response, many of the sites in question, as well as others, took action:
- Facebook promised to take action against verified vaccine hoaxes
- YouTube added a warning about vaccine hesitancy to Anti-Vaxx videos
- Pinterest replaced search results for Anti-Vaxx content with error messages
- Amazon removed some controversial content but has yet to implement safeguards
Why You Might Need A Booster
Even if you have been vaccinated against measles, you might still need a booster. If you received the inactive vaccine before 1965 or if you received only one dose of MMR, you may need a second shot. The same applies if you were born before 1989.
Your doctor can perform a blood test called a titer to be sure. If you were born before 1957, chances are you have natural immunity, but a titer can also help you determine whether you need a vaccine. Even if you have already been exposed, getting vaccinated within three days can improve your outcome.
Herd immunity is necessary to protect the vulnerable in our population, from babies too young to be vaccinated to anyone who has a decreased ability to fight infections. Learn more about the resurgence of measles and how to fight back from the infographic below.