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Why are Measles on the Rise Again?

Just this week, on Tuesday, May 7, a cruise ship carrying members of the Church of Scientology docked at the Caribbean island of Curaçao, and brought an outbreak of measles with them. Hundreds of passengers and crew members have been placed under quarantine on the ship while blood samples are currently being drawn to inspect the situation. It all started when on April 30, when a female crew member was formally diagnosed with the disease while on the ship. A blood sampled proved she had contracted measles the day before after leaving Europe for the cruise. The next day, the ship docked and continues to sit on quarantine in the Caribbean. Crew members are restricted from leaving in the fear of spreading the highly infections disease.

“If we allow that to happen [members to leave], measles spreads in places where the risk of severe complications is much bigger, especially when we’re talking about poor countries where people have a lower level of resistance,” Curaçao epidemiologist Izzy Gerstenbluth told the Associated Press on Saturday.

The World Health Organization (WHO) reported that in the first two months of 2019, 34,000 Europeans were infected with measles, primarily Ukrainians, but the victims inhabit 42 countries in all. “Every opportunity should be used to vaccinate susceptible children, adolescents and adults,” said WHO officials.

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This map shows which states have reported cases of measles in the year 2019 alone. Data by The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

As of May 3, the United States has had a total of 764 individual cases of measles according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The cases have been reported across 23 states, and this is the highest number of reported cases in the US since in 2000, when measles was declared “eliminated.” These statistics and outbreaks sound concerning, which is why Americans and other countries alike should be asking, why are we on the verge of a global outbreak of measles?

Worldwide, reports of measles outbreaks are becoming more common, and the only way to explain it is that people aren’t being as careful and preventative as they should. According to the CDC, travelers are some of the most susceptible people to the contagious disease. Just as well, travelers are often worried about things not regarding their health and hygiene. Also, “further spread of measles in U.S. communities with pockets of unvaccinated people.” For example, in 2017, a 75 cases of measles were reported in Minnesota, in a “Somali-American community with poor vaccination coverage.” This, of course, points to the importance of vaccinations, another large topic in the health community.

There’s plenty of elementary practices, like washing you hands and not touching your face, that will protect individuals from getting measles. However, the vaccination is still the most recommended way to stay healthy of the disease. In the United States, the vaccine, called measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) is administered once between 12-15 months old, and again later on as a safeguard. Taking two doses is “nearly 100% effective at preventing measles.” While this sounds ideal to most parents, there’s a rising trend of modern parents refusing to give their child the vaccines. Their fear is that the vaccines could cause developmental problems in their children, which are highly unlikely. “Anti-vaxxers” are what the UK’s health secretary Matt Hancock calls “morally reprehensible.” “If you don’t vaccinate your child, it’s not only your child that is at risk. It’s also other children, including other children who, for medical reasons, can’t be vaccinated,” he said. “Vaccination is good for you, good for your child, and good for your neighbor and your community.”

The question on everyone’s mind is, what now? The recent measles outbreaks have shed light on the problem at hand; people are refusing vaccinations, and travelers aren’t keeping their hygiene in mind. For these reasons, and more, the rise in measles is causing a global scare. Of course, doctors continue to recommend the use of the MMR vaccination; as stated before, it almost always protects from measles, mumps and rubella. In order to prevent a global outbreak from occurring, listening to the doctor may just be the best choice.


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