Measles outbreak 'accelerates,' health officials warn

A doctor preparing to give a shot

"Vaccine hesitancy means decline in vaccination rates, which could lead to more outbreaks of vaccine preventable diseases", Eve Dubé, a medical anthropologist and researcher at the Research Center of the CHU de Québec-Université Laval, told Salon by email last month.

The most recent outbreaks appears to have originated from travelers who visited countries experiencing outbreaks of the disease, including Israel, the Philippines and Ukraine.

If the outbreaks - which prompted the Big Apple to order mandatory vaccinations last week - aren't brought under control, health experts fear the number of cases in 2019 could set a 20-year record since measles were supposedly eliminated from the US.

Measles has been reported in 20 states this year, with notable outbreaks in NY and Washington. The highest number of reported cases since 2000 was 667 in 2014, according to the CDC.

There have been 283 reports of measles in Brooklyn alone, compared to more than 500 nationwide, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The virus can be prevented with the MMR vaccine, which also protects against mumps (a viral infection that affects the salivary glands) and rubella (also a viral infection that is identified by its distinctive red rash).

Health officials say there are two main reasons for the virus's surge: more worldwide travel and lower vaccination rates.

The 90 new confirmed cases of measles last week brings the total number of cases in 2019 to 555, according to The Washington Post.

Measles cases rose 300 per cent worldwide through the first three months of 2019 compared to the same period a year ago, the United Nations said on Monday (April 15), as concern grows over the impact of anti-vaccination stigma.

"Spikes in case numbers have also occurred in countries with high overall vaccination coverage, including the United States", WHO said. "The disease has spread fast among clusters of unvaccinated people". However, the claim spread fear among parents, leading to a small but vocal faction that makes up the current anti-vax movement.

In an opinion piece for CNN, WHO heads Henrietta Fore and Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the world was "in the middle of a measles crisis" and that "the proliferation of confusing and contradictory information" about vaccines was partly to blame. In 2000, health officials announced that they had rid the country of measles.

Measles can cause serious long-term harm, to individuals and to the economy.

It is one of the most contagious viruses around, however, nothing about measles has changed.

Almost a quarter of measles patients are hospitalised with complications that can lead to disabilities, brain damage, blindness and hearing loss.

Measles isn't just rising in the United States. For every 1,000 children who get the disease, the CDC estimated one or two will die from it.