Anti-Vaxxers Are Responsible for the Worst Outbreaks America Has Seen in Years

The news: There have been a whopping 288 cases of measles in the U.S. between Jan. 1 and May 23 of this year. That's the largest outbreak in the first five months of a year the nation has seen since 1994.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a report on May 29 detailing the 20-year inflated high. The worst part is that there is now direct evidence that anti-vaccine truthers are causing these outbreaks. 

Most U.S. health care providers have little experience treating the disease because of the nation's strong vaccination efforts. Measles is highly contagious but rarely deadly in the U.S., and is more prevalent in Asia, Africa, Europe and the Pacific. Every year, 20 million people are infected with the disease and roughly 122,000 of them die. However, in 2000, the U.S. declared that measles was eliminated in America because there hadn't been any continuous transmissions in more than a year.


Image Credit: CDC.gov

The proof is in the pudding: According to the study, 90% of those infected were either unvaccinated or did not know their vaccination status. And 280 out of the 288 cases were related to importations of the disease from at least 18 countries.  

Dr. Anne Schuchat, director of CDC's National Center for Immunizations and Respiratory Diseases, said in a release that "the current increase in measles cases is being driven by unvaccinated people, primarily U.S. residents, who got measles in other countries, brought the virus back to the United States and spread to others in communities where many people are not vaccinated."

Out of the U.S. residents who were not vaccinated, 85% claimed that the motivations for opting out were religious, philosophical or personal reasons. People are not choosing to avoid vaccinations for medical or scientifically backed reasoning, even though these decisions carry weighty consequences. 

Why is this happening? Recent outbreaks of mumps and whooping cough, which are similarly preventable diseases, are being caused by an "anti-vax" movement that's gaining widespread support. 

TIME's Jeffrey Kluger explained the anti-vaccination craze best: "Nearly all of that folly can be blamed on the rumors and outright lies that continue to be spread about various conditions vaccines are said to cause — autism, ADHD, vaguely defined immune system disorders and on and on depending on which celebrity or health faddist is telling the tale."

There is an enormous amount of evidence that indicates that measles vaccines are both safe and effective. Polio, whooping cough and mumps vaccinations also have science and reasoning to support their usage as a positive prevention method. Unfortunately, now we know that fighting anti-vaccine truthers with evidence will only make the situation worse

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Jenna Kagel

Jenna Kagel covers global and national social injustices. She also focuses on political dysfunction, the intersection of money and policy, and the US criminal justice system.

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