The 2019 measles outbreak, explained

Yes, there's a measles outbreak in 2019. Here's how it happened, what you need to know, and how you can prevent an infection.
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Measles virus / CDC

In 1657, measles (MeV) arrived in Boston, MA, and it was the first time the deadly virus was seen in the Americas. However, in 1963, a measles vaccine was developed, and the virus was eventually eliminated in the US in 2000.

This year, the measles is back and more prevalent than it has ever been in the 21st century.

Overview

So what exactly is the measles virus? In common terms, it’s a childhood infection caused by a virus. Signs and symptoms include a high fever, cough, runny nose, and red, watery eyes after around two weeks of getting infected. A couple days after those symptoms appear, Kolpik spots might grow in the mouth.

Here’s the bad news for parents of young children, right from the CDC itself:

  • About 1 in 4 people in the US who get measles will be hospitalized
  • 1 out of every 1,000 people with measles will develop brain swelling, which could lead to brain damage
  • 1 or 2 out of every 1,000 people with measles will die, even with the best care

And here’s even worse news: A child is unable to get the vaccination for the measles until after they are a year old, and the deadly virus is spreading quickly.

This chart from the CDC shows the sudden increase in measles cases from the last 9 years, and the fact that it’s only the fifth month of 2019 and the cases are on a steady rise, many people across the nation are becoming overwhelmed with fear for their children and families.

According to the CDC, from January 1 to April 26, 2019, 704 individual cases of measles have been confirmed in 22 states. This is an increase of 78 cases from the previous week. This is the greatest number of cases reported in the U.S. since 1994 and since measles was declared eliminated in 2000.

source: CDC.gov

On the bright side, though, the vaccine is completely available to every child in the US; however, not every parent is making the choice to protect their children from the virus.

Anti-Vaxxers Enter the Limelight

A couple hundred years ago, in 1882, arguments against vaccinations were presented to the public eye. This rebuttal against violent diseases and viruses became one of the most controversial counterarguments of modern medicine, and we are seeing a new wave of this group of people, commonly referred to as anti-vaxxers, sweeping the nation with a bold decision to keep their children away from vaccinations.

This decision to keep a child away from vaccinations makes the child susceptible to the severe illnesses that were eradicated years ago. When those children whose bodies are unable to combat serious sicknesses, like the measles, catch something, it ultimately puts every person in that community at risk.

The measles is so contagious that 9 out of 10 people that the infected person comes in contact with will be infected as well, if they are unprotected.

Now, the US is facing a large-scale epidemic of the measles because of the presence of anti-vaxxer parents and unvaccinated travelers, according to the CDC.

Obviously, this is very troubling to parents of infants.

Katherine Jones, who is a San Francisco mother of an eight-week-old baby, told the New York Times that for people who don’t vaccinate their children, “It’s a choice.” But she added: “It’s not a choice for me, because my baby cannot be vaccinated. The folks who are choosing not to vaccinate their children or be vaccinated themselves are putting my child in danger.”

The threat of the measles in the US doesn’t just bring a nasty virus; it also promotes widespread fear in the nation, which can pose greater threats to the state of a sovereign nation.

Avengers: Endgame hit the theaters on April 25, and the movie brought massive amounts of people to the screens. An AMC Theater in California underwent a crisis that week because of a traveler who accidentally brought the measles from another country back to the US. Once her condition was discovered, the moviegoers of that night were warned that the entire theater in Santa Ana, CA was at risk of catching the virus, according to CNN.

Not only do parents have to fear for the lives of their infants, but everyone in America is now being warned to be cautious of public places. So, what can you do to protect yourself?

What now?

This virus is threatening and deadly, so how can you make sure that you aren’t a statistic on the ever-rising confirmed cases data?

  • Make sure you and your family are fully vaccinated. Pediatric infectious disease physician Charles Foster, MD told Cleveland Clinic, “Two doses of measles-containing vaccine are more than 99 percent effective in preventing measles.” Being up-to-date on your health will be vital in the current era of anti-vaxxers and overseas travel.
  • Keep tabs on your health. The early signs and symptoms of the measles might be mistaken for allergies or a cold, but the progression works quickly, and the end result can be deadly. If you plan on traveling abroad, the CDC is advising people to not only get their vaccines, but to also call your doctor if you develop any possible symptoms.

Don’t fear the needle

Doctors are advising everyone to make sure they have the MMR vaccine for measles and rubella because the risks of not doing so are more dangerous than the theories presented by anti-vaxxers.

Studies have shown that there is no correlation between autism (the leading argument of anti-vaxxers) and the MMR vaccine, according to Cleveland Clinic. Therefore, the only fear a person should have about the vaccine is not having it.

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