Tag: measles eradication

The Myth That Measles Never Left

Measles cases are on the rise. Where? Pretty much everywhere. But some folks are still pushing the myth that measles never left.

The highest number of measles cases in over 25 years? Don't call it a comeback?
Don’t call it a comeback? Cases in the US average 283 cases per year over the past 12 years (if you don’t skip 2019…)

It is easy to see that measles myth, like most AV myths, isn’t true.

The Myth That Measles Never Left

In the pre-vaccine era, everyone would get measles.

That translates into about 500,000 reported cases each year. Technically, it was likely closer to about 4 million cases in the United States each year, but either way, we know that lots of people got measles.

Then we got a measles vaccine and not surprisingly, cases of measles dropped. Except for a small uptick from 1989 to 1991, we were on our way to eliminating measles.

And we did, in 2000, when the endemic spread of measles was eliminated in the United States. From then on, all measles cases were imported.

In 2004, we had an historic low of just 37 measles cases in the United States!

Will we ever have fewer than 37 cases in a year?
Will we ever have fewer than 37 cases in a year?

And from 2000 to 2012, we averaged just 87 measles cases each year, which is far below the US average of 283 cases we are now seeing.

No, measles never completely left. It was not eradicated.

But it is certainly making a comeback and soaring to levels that we haven’t seen since 1992!

Just think about it… We had 37 cases of measles in 2004 and this year, we often had 37 cases in a single week!

Get vaccinated and protected so that you don’t get caught up in the next outbreak.

More on Measles Cases

Why Are Vaccinated Australians Now Catching Measles?

Measles is on the rise in Australia, like many other places. But why are vaccinated Australians now catching measles?

More vaccinated Australians are catching measles because there is more measles in Australia.
More vaccinated Australians are catching measles because there is more measles in Australia.

And has this got folks thinking it is because the disease is evolving?

Why Are Vaccinated Australians Now Catching Measles?

Well, apparently it has some folks thinking that.

Remember, Andrew Wakefield has also been talking about mutant measles.

Is that what this story in Australia was about?

No.

“In recent years, 13 Victorians have been hospitalized with measles despite having one or two vaccinations that should have made them immune. Why? Well, experts believe that because measles is so rare in Australia, we pretty much never come into contact with it, so our immune systems are starting to let their guards down and wane a little bit.”

Nathan Templeton on Measles Immunity Concerns

What is he talking about?

It’s the idea of exogenous boosting from being around natural infections. In other words, after you become immune from being vaccinated, you could get a boost in your immune protection if you are around someone with the disease.

“The exogenous boosting (EB) hypothesis posits that cell-mediated immunity is boosted for individuals reexposed to varicella-zoster virus (VZV).”

Talbird et al on Understanding the role of exogenous boosting in modeling varicella vaccination.

While this is thought to happen with chickenpox, we aren’t sure if it happens with measles.

It might, but the “problem” is that it is known that folks can have an amnestic response, so can be immune even though they have low antibody levels.

Mostly though, it is important to keep in mind that most of the people who get measles are unvaccinated, often intentionally unvaccinated.

“The key to measles elimination is increasing vaccination coverage and monitoring of measles antibody status for all ages, as well as enhancing surveillance of both domestic and overseas incidences.”

Inaida et al on Measles elimination and immunisation: national surveillance trends in Japan, 2008-2015.

So how many vaccinated Australians are getting measles?

Overall, there are 154 cases of measles in Australia so far this year.

“In Australia, the majority of measles cases are due to unvaccinated individuals becoming infected while travelling to countries in which measles is either common or there are outbreaks occurring. As measles is highly contagious, these people can then spread the disease to others, causing outbreaks, often before they are aware that they have the virus.”

Australia’s Measles Outbreaks 2019

And just as in the United States and most other countries, most of their outbreaks are started by folks who are unvaccinated.

More on Measles in Australia

About Those Anti-Vaccine Signs Some Folks Are Making

Sadly, even as some of us are working to fight measles outbreaks, others are actually protesting against getting kids vaccinated and protected. And they have gotten someone to finance the making of hundreds of anti-vaccine signs.

Signs that list the typical anti-vaccine talking points that we have been refuted a thousand times…

About Those Anti-Vaccine Signs Some Folks Are Making

Not surprisingly, there is nothing new about these signs.

It will be nearly impossible to eradicate measles with all of these folks scaring parents away from vaccinating and protecting their kids!
It will be nearly impossible to eradicate measles with all of these folks scaring parents away from vaccinating and protecting their kids!

Remember, every anti-vaccine argument is essentially a PRATT, a point refuted a thousand times.

72 vaccines??? Kids routinely get 14 different vaccines to protect them against 16 different vaccine-preventable diseases
72 vaccines??? Kids routinely get 14 different vaccines to protect them against 16 different vaccine-preventable diseases.

Whether it is in a book, on Facebook or Twitter, or on a sign, don’t let this type of anti-vaccine misinformation keep you from vaccinating and protecting your kids.

Vaccines are safe, with few risks, and are obviously necessary.

“One is morally free to use the vaccine regardless of its historical association with abortion. The reason is that the risk to public health, if one chooses not to vaccinate, outweighs the legitimate concern about the origins of the vaccine. This is especially important for parents, who have a moral obligation to protect the life and health of their children and those around them.”

National Catholic Bioethics Center FAQ on the Use of Vaccines

“A moral obligation” to vaccinate your kids…

Maybe we should put that on a sign!

More on Anti-Vaccine Signs

Is Measles Still Eliminated in the United States?

Do you remember when measles was eliminated in the United States?

You probably should.

Remember when we eliminated measles and we used to only have about 100 cases of measles in the United States each year?
Remember when we eliminated measles and we used to only have about 100 cases of measles in the United States each year? Pensacola News Journal July 2000

It wasn’t that long ago…

When Measles Was Eliminated in the United States

After several years of declining numbers of measles outbreaks in the United States, the endemic spread of measles was declared eliminated in March 2000.

“The data indicated that, during 1997–1999, measles incidence has remained low (<0.5 cases per 1,000,000 population) and that most states and 99% of counties reported no measles cases. In addition, measles surveillance was sensitive enough to consistently detect imported cases, isolated cases, and small outbreaks. Evidence of high population immunity included coverage of >90% with the first dose of measles vaccine in children aged 19–35 months since 1996 and 98% coverage among children entering school. In 48 states and the District of Columbia, a second dose of measles vaccine is required for school entry. A national serosurvey indicated that 93% of persons aged >6 years have antibody to measles.”

Measles — United States, 1999

What did that mean?

It is easy to understand when you note that we still had 86 cases of measles in the United States that year.

So, measles wasn’t gone yet. It was just that most cases were imported from outside the country. Only imported strains of the measles virus were causing outbreaks.

“The end of endemic measles transmission in the United States has both domestic and international importance. Domestically, the absence of endemic exposure to measles means few persons in the United States will be infected and risk complications of measles. This decreased risk of exposure provides protection to groups not protected directly by vaccination: children too young for routine vaccination; the few persons who, although vaccinated, are not protected, primarily from failure to mount an adequate response to vaccine; persons for whom vaccine is contraindicated (e.g., those with immunodeficiency); and persons who choose not to be vaccinated.”

Wharton on Measles Elimination in the United States

Unfortunately, the “choose not to be vaccinated” group might be endagering our claim to have eliminated measles.

Is Measles Still Eliminated in the United States?

As we break more and more measles records this year, it would be easy to just say that the endemic spread of measles is no longer eliminated in the United States.

“Endemic measles transmission is the existence of any continuous indigenous chain of transmission of measles virus that persists for >1 year in any defined geographic area (e.g., the United States).”

Orenstein on Defining and Assessing Measles Elimination Goals

Still, when you look at the numbers, technically, measles isn’t yet spreading endemically in the United States.

Although we are seeing measles cases in 27 states, about 70% of them are in just two outbreaks in one state - New York.
Although we are seeing measles cases in 27 states, about 70% of them are in just two outbreaks in one state – New York.

We are getting close though.

The outbreaks in Rockland County and Brooklyn started in September and October 2018. If they aren’t stopped soon, will it be easier to make a case that measles is no longer eliminated in the United States?

“Outbreaks in New York City and Rockland County, New York have continued for nearly 8 months. If these outbreaks continue through summer and fall, the United States may lose its measles elimination status.”

U.S. measles cases in first five months of 2019 surpass total cases per year for past 25 years

It sounds like it.

One thing to consider though, after an unvaccinated visitor introduced measles to Brooklyn from Israel back in October, measles has been reintroduced into the community at least seven other times! This includes travelers from Israel, UK, and Ukraine.

So the outbreak isn’t necessarily a “continuous indigenous chain of transmission of measles virus.”

It is multiple chains in the same community.

“There have been additional cases of measles from international travelers to Rockland, exposing more people to measles.”

2018 – 2019 Measles Outbreak in Rockland County

The same thing has happened in Rockland County after the initial importation from Israel in September.

Measles Elimination Criteria

Does that matter?

It likely should, but let’s also look at how we do with other criteria that are often used to assess the absence of the endemic spread of measles:

  • Few measles cases/low measles incidence – we will have the most cases in 2019 since 1992, but most cases are clustered in just a few big outbreaks
  • The duration of outbreaks is short – outbreaks are getting longer and harder to contain, but part of the problem is the global rise in measles and the reintroduction of measles into existing outbreaks
  • Most cases are associated with international importation – still very true
  • No endemic measles virus strain – outbreaks this year have been associated with strains that are commonly seen in Ukraine, the Philippines, and a few other areas
  • Long periods with no unknown-source cases – most cases are linked to international travel
  • High population immunity – except for pockets of susceptibles, folks who intentionally don’t vaccinate their kids or get themselves vaccinated, we do have high population immunity
  • Low levels of transmission from reported cases – in most outbreaks, that it is still true, unfortunately, there are more outbreaks this year
  • Adequate measles surveillance system – definitely true

What is the best argument that the endemic spread of measles has still been eliminated in the United States?

“A small number of cases have occurred outside of these neighborhoods but have, to date, not resulted in sustained transmission of measles.”

Measles Cases Rise to 466 Including in Two Unvaccinated Children Spending Time in Areas with Measles Activity

Even where there are big outbreaks, measles isn’t spreading outside of very specific communities of intentionally unvaccinated children and adults.

And that’s because most people are vaccinated and protected and aren’t letting measles spread endemically!

Losing Measles Elimination Status

If we did lose our status of having eliminated measles, we wouldn’t be the first.

“As of 30 June 2018, measles transmission in Venezuela has been ongoing for over one year. Therefore, endemic transmission of measles is considered to have been reestablished in Venezuela.”

Fourth ad hoc Meeting of the Technical Advisory Group (TAG) on Vaccine-preventable Diseases

Tragically, since their outbreaks began a few years ago, there have been nearly 10,000 cases and at least 78 deaths. Cases have also spread to many other countries in South America.

Venezuela isn’t the only country where we have seen the return of measles though.

In 2017, the European regional verification commission verified the reestablishment of the endemic spread of measles in the Russian Federation and in Germany.

“Countries in all six WHO regions have adopted goals for measles elimination by 2020.”

Progress Toward Regional Measles Elimination — Worldwide, 2000–2017

Surprisingly, some other countries in Europe, like Belgium, France, and Italy, never eliminated measles.

What’s next?

Hopefully, instead of a new normal, the rise in cases gets us back on track to eliminating and one day eradicating measles.

More on When Measles Was Eliminated in the United States