Anti-Vaxx Religious Communities Led America’s Measles Outbreak
A total of 1,249 measles cases have been reported in the United States in 2019, confirmed the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on October 4, 2019.
In the new MMWR, the CDC said ‘most (measles) cases were associated with large and closely related outbreaks in New York City (NYC) and the rest of New York State (NYS).’
Eight of the measles outbreaks in 2019 occurred in under-immunized, close-knit communities, and accounted for 85 percent of all cases in the USA.
Moreover, the measles outbreaks associated with New York accounted for about 75 percent of all cases, said the CDC.
In New York, significant measles outbreaks took place in religious communities such as Brooklyn, Rockland and Wyoming counties during 2019.
Specifically, the measles outbreaks in NYC and NYS were larger and lasted longer because of a combination of 3 important risk factors for measles transmission:
- Pockets of low-vaccination coverage and variable vaccine acceptance
- Relatively high population density and closed social nature of the affected community
- Repeated importations of measles cases among unvaccinated persons traveling internationally and returning to or visiting the affected communities
According to the authors of a recent abstract, ‘measles cases in unvaccinated adults played a critical role in importing the disease and transmitting measles in the early stages of the New York outbreak.’
“These data strongly support current recommendations of 2 doses of the MMR vaccine for adults traveling internationally and at high-risk, such as those in outbreak areas,” the authors conclude.
Measles is caused by a highly contagious virus, measles is a disease that spreads from person to person by breathing, coughing, or sneezing. People can spread measles up to 4 days before and 4 days after they have a rash.
Measles can lead to serious complications, such as pneumonia, and even death says the CDC.
Robust responses in NYC and NYS with multiple partners involved vaccination efforts, including, but not limited to:
- administration of approximately 60,000 Measles-Mumps-Rubella (MMR) vaccine doses in the affected communities
- tailored communication campaigns
- partnerships with religious leaders, local physicians, health centers, and advocacy groups
- use of local public health statutory authorities
And, in June 2019, NY Governor Cuomo removed nonmedical exemptions from school vaccination requirements for children.
Furthermore, the NYS Department issued emergency regulations in August further strengthening the process by which physicians can grant medical exemptions to school vaccination requirements in order to prevent them from being used for non-medical purposes.
And recently, the NYS Department of Health announced that more than 42 days - the equivalent of 2 incubation periods - have passed in Sullivan and Orange counties, without any new cases of measles.
This measles outbreak placed the USA at risk for losing its measles elimination status, which was 1st obtained in 2000.
Furthermore, the increased global measles activity and the continued existence of under-vaccinated communities place the USA at a continual risk for measles outbreaks.
An example community in the USA at risk is Dallas, Texas.
Risk #1 - International travel measles risk
- The DFW airport is the world’s 12th busiest, receiving nearly 4 million international travelers from more than 60 international destinations.
Risk #2 - Academic vaccination exemptions
- Texas is one of a few states that grant school vaccine exemptions on the basis of ‘reasons of conscience’, which encompasses philosophical or religious objections.
Risk #3 - Attending large events includes measles exposure risks
- The CDC says ‘attending large events increases a person’s risk for becoming infected with the measles virus.’ This means anyone not immune from the measles virus could become infected while in a large crowd. Since the state of Texas does not require ‘measles immunity’ verification to attend music concerts, theatrical performances or community festivals, an unvaccinated person has an unquantifiable risk when attending large events.
To alert international travelers, the CDC issued a Global Measles Travel Travel Alert during June 2019. Additionally, the CDC continually updates country-specific disease information.
Communities such as these are at high risk for outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases, which threaten the health and safety of vulnerable persons within, as well as outside of, these communities:
- Canada - Measles
- Japan - Rubella
- France - Dengue
- United Kingdom - Measles
- Africa - Ebola
- Ethiopia - Chikungunya
- Brazil - Yellow Fever
- Puerto Rico - Zika
The CDC continued saying in the MMWR October 4 alert, ‘public health authorities around the world need to identify pockets of under-vaccinated persons to prevent future outbreaks.’
‘Preventive strategies to build vaccine confidence is important, especially one that uses culturally appropriate communication strategies to offset misinformation and disseminate accurate information about the safety of vaccinations’ concluded the CDC.
Vaccine news published by Precision Vaccinations.
- CDC: Global Measles Outbreak Notice
- CDC: National Update on Measles Cases and Outbreaks — United States, January 1–October 1, 2019
- Statement from New York State Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker on New York State’s Public Health Response to Measles
- Governor Cuomo Signs Legislation Removing Non-Medical Exemptions from School Vaccination Requirements