Set aside for a moment the public-health danger posed by the return of measles, and focus on people, because that is where the problem lies. Declared eliminated in the United States in 2000, measles is having outbreaks in six locations; this year already marks the second-highest case count in two decades. That’s because some people made a decision to not get vaccinated or to not vaccinate their children. It was a negligent decision, and in many cases also an inexcusably ignorant one, that endangered neighbors and strangers alike in quotidian public spaces - schools, stores and airports.
Preventing the spread of measles requires about 95 percent of a population to be properly vaccinated with the measles vaccine.
According to public-health officials, measles is one of the most contagious viruses on Earth; you can catch it just by being in a room where a person with measles has been, up to two hours later. One alert that just went out in Rockland County, New York, listed an Uber car, two taxis and a supermarket as potential exposure sites.
The outbreak in Rockland County was first met with an executive order barring unvaccinated children from schools, then when the outbreak progressed, it was followed by a state of emergency that bars children and teenagers who are not vaccinated from public places. This measure, which has been temporarily blocked by a local judge, is drastic but arguably necessary. As of Wednesday, there were 161 confirmed cases, and 83.2% of them were unvaccinated individuals.
In many cases, measles outbreaks are traced to travelers from elsewhere in the world where the disease is still endemic.
This phenomenon, which the World Health Organization has called “vaccine hesitancy” and listed as one of the 10 major threats to global public health, thrives on suspicion, distrust of government and misinformation. The best antidote is to broadcast far and wide the wisdom of vaccination, to protect not only oneself - but also everyone else.
-The Washington Post