The United States just hit a major milestone, but not the kind that anyone should be proud of. With over 700 confirmed cases of the measles so far in 2019 the country just passed a 25-year high, and there’s little sign that the outbreak is slowing.
The spread of the disease — which thus far has hit unvaccinated children under five years of age the hardest — would have been absolutely unimaginable just a couple of decades ago. As recently as the year 2000, the United States had effectively eliminated the disease nationwide thanks high percentages of vaccinations, but decades of intense work by health officials to rid us of the disease has been completely undone in seemingly no time at all.
The most recent report from the CDC puts the current number of infected individuals at a whopping 704. That’s just the confirmed cases, mind you, so the real number is likely significantly higher. Individual outbreaks have popped up in a number of states including New York, Michigan, New Jersey, California, Oregon, Georgia, and Maryland, but that doesn’t even begin to reveal the true scope of the problem.
Unvaccinated children — with no power to demand vaccinations if their anti-vaxxer parents deem it unnecessary — are enduring the worst of it. Over one-third of the confirmed measles infections are in children under five years of age. In total, unvaccinated individuals make up well over 70 percent of the cases on record in 2019.
None of this is particularly surprising if you’ve been following the festering growth of the anti-vaccination movement across the country. Misguided parents buying into junk science and conspiracy-minded Facebook groups have been convincing each other that vaccinations are bad for years now.
One of the more popular theories in these groups is that vaccines have been linked to cases of autism — a claim based on a since-retracted study that turned out to be a complete farce.
Meanwhile, schools across the country have had to issue bans on students who are unvaccinated in order to prevent their student bodies from becoming the next outbreak hotspot. Public health officials are proposing more strict measures to ensure vaccinations are carried out, and begging government officials to eliminate vaccine exemptions before the crisis grows even more dire.