Researchers have been warning of measles outbreaks as immunization rates dip in certain U.S. cities. But the World Health Organization says measles is now booming around the globe with 6.7 million cases in 2017, up 30 percent from the previous year, according to a report released Thursday.
In Europe, cases of the preventable illness, which can be deadly for children, tripled between 2017 and 2018 to nearly 83,000, primarily in the Ukraine, where vaccination rates for measles, mumps and rubella dropped to 31 percent in 2016, according to BBC.
It usually takes a vaccination rate of 93 percent to 95 percent to achieve “herd immunity,” or the condition at which most people are protected against the spread of contagious disease. When herd immunity fails, usually children, the elderly and the immuno-compromised are most at risk of infection.
What started as isolated outbreaks is now spreading around the globe, due to travel and misinformation about vaccines.
Since the beginning of this year, 55 children younger than 4 years old have died of measles at hospital in Manila, according to the New York Times. Fewer people were vaccinated for the virus last year as trust in immunization programs eroded after a dengue vaccine program went awry and put some people at heightened risk for disease.
That could have devastating effects outside of the country, too, as shown by dueling measles outbreaks in Israel, for example, and Orthodox Jewish communities in Brooklyn. In both outbreaks, health officials have blamed cases on tourism and unvaccinated children.
The Pacific Northwest is coping with a severe measles outbreak, with 50 confirmed cases in Clark County, which includes Vancouver and is near the suburbs of Portland. Washington State lawmakers have proposed a bill that would remove the ability for parents to claim philosophical exemptions when not vaccinating their child, according to CBS.
Some officials believe that exemption is behind only 76.5 percent of kindergarteners in Clark County having their required shots last school year, according to NBC News.
Oregon Gov. Kate Brown also said this week that she’d like to tighten immunization rules to prevent future outbreaks. Washington and Oregon are among the 18 states that allow parents to claim philosophical exemptions when skipping shots. In Washington, at least, there’s been a mad rush to get kids vaccinated. since the outbreak began.
The region’s strain of measles is believed to have come from Eastern Europe, according to the Oregonian, the same region the World Health Organization warned was woefully unvaccinated in its report Thursday.
Cover: CDHS from Lyon in France, center for Health and Prevention. Public vaccination center. (Photo by: Media for Medical/UIG via Getty Images)