An outbreak of a preventable disease has caught headlines, with over 626 reported cases of measles in the United States (US) as of April 23. If the disease continues to spread at the current rate, 2019 will have the highest number of cases in the past 25 years.
Measles, also known as Rubeola, is a deadly and highly contagious disease that is making a speedy comeback in the US.
Health officials said they expect 2019’s case counts to rise in the coming weeks because of increased disease spread as a result of religious gatherings this month.
New York City has currently reported the largest outbreak in the country. There is an ongoing measles outbreak in the Orthodox Jewish communities in Brooklyn affecting Williamsburg and Borough Park. Cases have also been identified in Midwood/Marine Park and Bensonhurst resulting from a lack of vaccinations being provided to children.
New York City officials have implemented interventions including education programs for parents and children, reaching out to religious leaders of affected areas and the distribution of thousands of flyers. Mayor Bill de Blasio has gone as far as to mandate vaccinations and implements fines of up to $1000 for noncompliance, the New York Times reports.
At this time, children that are unvaccinated and suspected of having the disease can be barred from entering public settings such as daycares and schools. Even though some question the constitutionality of such interventions, others applaud the swift and decisive steps taken to curb the epidemic.
Measles, a disease that is still common in countries outside the US, was brought by travelers to the nation. These travelers came to Washington and New York state, which have been identified as the epicenter of this current outbreak.
The disease has spread to 18 other states including Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Oregon and Texas.
According to Mayo Clinic, the measles infection is caused by a virus that is primarily found in the nose and throat of the infected individual. This infection is spread when droplets from infected individuals-during sneezing, talking and coughing- come in contact with non-infected individuals.
Children ranging from newborn to 5-years-old, unvaccinated individuals and people that have traveled abroad are at the highest risk of contracting the disease.
Symptoms include fever, dry cough, runny nose, sore throat, inflamed eyes and skin rashes. Complications associated with this disease include ear infections, bronchitis, laryngitis, pneumonia, encephalitis, other pregnancy-related problems and even death.
Public health officials are urging unvaccinated individuals to get vaccinated as soon as possible.
The Measles, Mumps, and Rubella vaccine comes in 2 doses.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the effectiveness of individuals with one dose and two doses of the vaccine is 93% and 97% respectively.
This means that even with the two doses, individuals have a 3% chance of contracting the disease. Individual suspected of having this disease should be reported to the appropriate health authorities and isolated from others with the utmost urgency.