Measles, a highly contagious and potentially deadly disease that was all but eradicated in the United States nine years ago, has climbed to its highest level in 25 years at around 700 cases so far in 2019. The resurgence of the disease is attributed to misinformation that is turning parents against vaccines. In California, there were 38 confirmed cases of the measles as of Wednesday, April 24.
The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said 695 cases had been reported in 22 states as of Wednesday afternoon, up from 626 reported Monday. Public health officials warned the number of confirmed measles cases will likely climb even higher. With eight months to go in 2019, this is the worst year for measles in the United States since 1994, when there were 963 cases during the entire 12 months, the agency said.
Sixty-one of the new cases were reported in New York state, where outbreaks have occurred among unvaccinated members of ultra-Orthodox Jewish communities in Brooklyn and Rockland County. About three-fourths of the U.S. measles cases are in those communities, and public health officials are worried cases could surge among those groups after Passover gatherings. It takes from 10 to 12 days for symptoms of measles to occur.
“There’s a lot of misinformation from this anti-vaccine movement within the community,” Dr. Joseph Kaplovitz, a pediatrician who serves the ultra-Orthodox community in Brooklyn’s Williamsburg neighborhood, told The Associated Press. “Some of the misinformation is that it causes autism, that the vaccines contain mercury, that the disease itself will protect them from cancer, eczema.”
Ultra-Orthodox rabbis generally have no religious objections to vaccines and have urged their followers to get inoculated. But the “anti-vaxxer” movement has made inroads among the ultra-Orthodox, even though they have little exposure to the internet.