Columbus, OH — You may have overheard the news in the background as you were washing your dishes: “Nurse in Seattle diagnosed with Measles…” prompting you to take a moment of pause. Measles? I thought that was eradicated from the United States in the year 2000? If this was your response, you would’ve been correct. But the highly contagious, and potentially deadly, disease has made a return due in-part to the anti-vaccine movement.
With almost 20 million children worldwide who are currently unvaccinated, diseases like measles are making a comeback. In 2018 there were 350,000 reported cases, doubling the amount we saw in 2017. This isn’t limited to poorer countries that have less access to medical care and vaccines, either. The United States has reported the highest number of measles cases since 1992, with children under 5 making up more than half of those cases.
As frustrating as it is, what can we do aside from educate on the benefit of vaccines and dispel the myths surrounding the side effects of receiving lifesaving vaccinations? Maybe the answer is nothing. But maybe, if we target counties or areas more vulnerable to measles outbreaks, we can concentrate efforts and help make a difference. A group of researchers submitted a report to The Lancet where they predicted counties in the United States that were most likely to see measles reappear. Fourteen of the counties they listed have reported cases, along with twelve neighboring counties. Experts have also said that by looking at 19 years of epidemiological data should be able to trace a pattern of measles cases to help predict where it will pop up next.
We’ve Done It Before — While it seems like an unstoppable force sweeping the United States and the world at large, we’ve been able to stop it before. Through education, access and the united goal of eradication, we can live without the word “measles” making its way into the headlines again. Identifying at-risk populations for measles and doubling our efforts to vaccinate those communities can take the wind out of the sails for the disease, returning it to the only place it belongs: the history books.