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Measles Outbreak: 2015 on Track as Biggest Outbreak Year in Decades, CDC and White House Urge Parents to Immunize Children

( [email protected] ) Feb 02, 2015 03:13 PM EST
The recent resurgence of the measles in the U.S. has the White House and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) begging parents to get their children vaccinated after the number of cases in January alone has risen to 102.
The White House and the CDC are urging parents to vaccine their children against measles. Photo: NBC

The recent resurgence of the measles in the U.S. has the White House and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) begging parents to get their children vaccinated after the number of cases in January alone has risen to 102.

"[From] what we've seen as over the last few years, there is a small but growing number of people [that] have not been vaccinated," Dr. Thomas Frieden, Director of the CDC told CBS on Sunday. "That number is building up among young adults and adults in society. And, that makes us vulnerable. We have to make sure measles doesn't get a foothold in the U.S."

While there are measles cases reported each year, 2014 saw the largest outbreak in decades with over 600 cases for the year. This year is already on track to smash that record, especially after a particularly potent outbreak happened in December after someone infected with the virus visited Disneyworld in Anaheim, California between December 15 and December 20. 

"Although we aren't sure exactly how this year's outbreak began, we assume that someone got infected overseas, visited the parks and spread the disease to others," said Dr. Anne Schuchat, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases.

Many believe that the relaxation of measles vaccinations for children is to blame for the rapid spread of the virus in December and January, especially considering the fact that measles was declared eliminated in 2000.

But it's believe that that elimination declaration is what caused many parents to believe that the vaccine was no longer necessary, causing them to opt out of the vaccination. While the CDC says that most parents don't have strong feelings against the vaccine, there is a growing group who believes that vaccinations are harmful to their children, especially considering a belief that they may be to blame for the sharp rise in autism cases.

But on Friday, officials at the White House urged parents to listen to scientists and health officials who report the proven success of the measles vaccination in preventing 99% of measles cases.

In light of this recent epidemic, the Sandwell Health Authority has released a touching letter written by Charlie and the Chocolate Factory author Roald Dahl explaining the death of his young daughter from measles.

"The measles had turned into a terrible thing called measles encephalitis and there was nothing the doctors could do to save her," Dahl wrote to the group in 1986. "That was twenty-four years ago in 1962, but even now, if a child with measles happens to develop the same deadly reaction from measles as Olivia did, there would still be nothing the doctors could do to help her."

Dahl's letter comes back at a time when the anti-vaccine movement needs to be reminded that these vaccinations are proven to help and meant only to save the nation's population. "All school-children who have not yet had a measles immunisation should beg their parents to arrange for them to have one as soon as possible."

Dahl dedicated two of his books to his daughter, Olivia: James and the Giant Peach while she was alive and The BFG, written in her memory.

"You will see her name at the beginning of each of these books. And I know how happy she would be if only she could know that her death had helped to save a good deal of illness and death among other children."

The CDC recommends that children receive the vaccine once around the age of 12 to 15 months and again at four to six years of age. If your child is older, they say that a vaccination is still safe, just as long as the two doses are at least 28 days apart.