Booming measles cases rocket toward record
The number of measles cases recorded across the USA rose by almost 100 last week as the annual total continued its march toward record levels, federal health officials reported Monday.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said 465 cases have been confirmed in 19 states in 2019, the second-highest total since measles was declared eliminated in the USA almost two decades ago.
The numbers are up sharply from just a week ago, when the total number of cases stood at 387 in 15 states. There were 372 cases last year; the highest total since 2000 was 667 in 2014.
The surge has been fueled in part by the anti-vaccination movement – most people who contract measles have not been vaccinated, the CDC said. If one person has the disease, up to 90% of the people close to that person will become infected if they are not immune, the CDC warned.
Ogbonnaya Omenka, an assistant professor at Butler University who has a doctorate in public health, said the increase is alarming but won’t necessarily continue. Public health professionals work behind the scenes to tackle these issues, he said.
“The numbers serve as a kick in the butt that says, hey, we probably should start paying attention to vaccination again,” he told USA TODAY. “One of the most challenging aspects of public health is balancing between individual liberty, for people who don’t want the vaccine for whatever reason, and what is best for everyone.”