In 2000, the Center for Disease Control declared that measles had been eliminated from the United States, but in recent years the highly infectious disease has struck again. So far in 2015 alone, 121 cases across 17 states were reported to the Center for Disease Control.
The number of cases is set to far outpace last year’s record. In 2014, 644 cases were reported in total: the most since the illness was declared “eliminated” in 2000.
Most of the cases reported this year (103 of them, to be exact) are linked to an outbreak that began in Disneyland towards the end of last year. The CDC believes that the outbreak most likely began when a traveler became infected overseas and then visited the amusement park, spreading the disease to those around him.
Although measles was wiped out in the U.S., the CDC says outbreaks can still occur. Measles is still active in other parts of the world and can be brought to the U.S. from overseas. If an infected traveler comes in contact with a “pocket” of unvaccinated people, the illness can be spread.
Measles is not the only illness with an effective vaccine that made a comeback in recent years. The U.S. has experienced outbreaks of the mumps, whooping cough, and chicken pox. Check out this interactive map from crf.org (Council on Foreign Relations) that visualizes outbreaks of these diseases and more from recent years.
Many blame the recent anti-vaccination movement for the increase in these cases in the U.S. The anti-vaccination movement began largely because of a study by Andrew Wakefield, which found a link between vaccines and autism. The study has since been discredited and the journal that published it, Lancet, has retracted it. However, the movement continues to gain steam, due to what National Geographic calls “misinformation and mistrust.”
Much of this misinformation was spread via the Internet, according to National Geographic. Dr. David Magolis, a professor of mass communications at Bloomsburg University, teaches and researches media literacy. Part of the goal of his media literacy teaching is to teach students how to successfully navigate the wealth of information the Internet has to offer and avoid misinterpreting it.
“The key for me is… getting information from good reputable sources on the internet and not some random blog or from somebody who’s not an expert in this area,” said Magolis. “I encourage individuals who are out there looking for information on the Internet to make sure the websites they’re using [or] the social media they’re using to find out information about measles is coming from a reputable source.” He sights the CDC as one such reputable source.
Although there are some very avid “anti-vaxxers,” as they have come to be known, the majority of health professionals and researchers recommend vaccinating children. A recent study by CDC researchers found that, “vaccination will prevent an estimated 322 million illnesses, 21 million hospitalizations, and 732,000 deaths over the course of their lifetimes, at a net savings of $295 billion in direct costs and $1.38 trillion in total societal costs.” According to the authors of the study, “immunization has been a highly effective tool for improving the health of U.S. children.”