The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are urging parents to have themselves and their children vaccinated for measles after a December outbreak continues to spread.
Declared ‘eliminated’ in 2000, the measles virus has returned to the US as more than 100 cases, which originated at the Anaheim Disney theme park, has been documented in the past two months.
Dr. Thomas Frieden, Director of the CDC, says, “[From] what we’ve seen as over the last few years, there is a small but growing number of people [that] have not been vaccinated. That number is building up among young adults and adults in society. And, that makes us vulnerable. We have to make sure measles doesn’t get a foothold in the U.S.”
Even the White House began urging parents on Friday to listen to scientists and public health officials by ensuring their children are vaccinated.
In a public release, President Barack Obama’s spokesman Josh Earnest said that, “People should evaluate this for themselves with a bias toward good science and toward the advice of our public health professionals.”
Symptoms of measles are flu-like and often include coughing, intense fever, runny nose, watering eyes and a full body rash. While rarely fatal in developed nations, the virus can cause permanent hearing loss and even brain damage.
Stephen Cochi, a senior adviser with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s global immunization division, says, “The measles virus is probably the most contagious infectious disease known to mankind.” Once the virus begins to spread among unvaccinated kids, it’s extremely difficult to stop.
While some parents remain skeptical about vaccinating their children due to fears that the vaccines have autistic side effects, Frieden says that others don’t have strong feelings on the issue because “They’re just concerned that maybe measles isn’t around anymore or maybe their kid shouldn’t get one more shot.”
Frieden wants parents to understand that unvaccinated kids put other kids at risk including children who cannot receive the vaccine due to immune issues. He adds, “What you do for your own kids doesn’t just affect your family— it affects other families as well.”
Public officials have confirmed at least 100 cases of the measles in the US since December 15, most of which stem from an outbreak in Disneyland. Although no deaths have been reported, about 58 of the cases have been linked to Anaheim Disneyland while more than a dozen other cases have been reported from 13 US states and Mexico.
After decades of intensive vaccine efforts, the measles was officially declared eliminated in the US in 2000, however, last year, the US recorded more than 600 cases, its highest in two decades.
According to NPR, the measles claimed 145,000 lives worldwide in 2014.