The United States has recorded more measles cases in the first two months of this year than in all of 2017, and part of the increased threat is due to misinformation that causes some parents to oppose the vaccine, federal officials said. health on Wednesday to Congress.
However, the vaccine is very effective and safe, so the increase in measles cases "is really unacceptable," said Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of infectology at the National Institutes of Health.
The disease was declared eradicated in the United States in 2000, which means that it has not spread in the country. However, cases have increased in recent years and 2019 is particularly bad.
Democratic and Republican lawmakers at the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee's hearing have complained about what they call "faltering hesitation," which means that people oppose or delay vaccination.
Concern about the increase in measles cases in the USA
"These outbreaks are tragic because they are totally preventable," said Rep. Brett Guthrie of Kentucky.
"It's a public health problem for which science has already offered a solution," said Rep. Frank Pallone, a Democrat from New Jersey.
Measles usually begins with a high fever and several days later there is a rash on the face that spreads to the rest of the body. Among the serious complications, 1 in 20 patients gets pneumonia and 1 in 1,000 suffers from brain inflammation, which can cause seizures, deafness or intellectual disability.
Although uncommon in the United States, 1 or 2 of every 1,000 children with measles die, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
It spreads when you cough or sneeze, and someone can spread the virus four days before the characteristic rash appears, Fauci said.
The virus can live up to two hours in the air or on nearby surfaces. Nine out of ten unvaccinated people who come in contact with someone with measles will receive it. Fauci said it is "one of the most contagious viruses known to man."
In general, about 92% of American children have a triple vaccine (also known as MMR) that protects against measles, mumps, and rubella. Two doses are needed, one approximately one year after birth and the second between 4 and 6 years. Complete immunization is 97% effective in the prevention of measles.
However, the CDC says that 1 in 12 children does not receive the first dose on time and in some places the vaccination rate is much lower than the national average. For example, an outbreak in Washington State was linked to a community where only 80% of children had been adequately vaccinated.