A measles outbreak in Ohio, attributed to lockdowns, and the anti-vaxx movement has left two dozen children infected and nine hospitalized.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said 24 unvaccinated minors — mostly under the age of four — have been infected in Columbus, the state’s largest city.
The CDC has deployed a team to investigate the outbreak, which has been traced to nine daycare centers and two hospitals. No deaths have yet been recorded.
About one in 500 children who get measles dies from the infection. And one in five unvaccinated people who become infected is hospitalized.
America has technically eradicated measles, meaning only a handful of cases emerge each year, thanks to a highly effective vaccine launched in 1963.
But Covid lockdowns disrupted routine childhood vaccination schedules and skepticism about the mRNA vaccines is thought to have fueled the anti-vaxx movement.
In Ohio, 23 of the infected children are four years old or younger, putting them in the group at highest risk from the virus. The other child is six years old.
None of them had received the standard two-shot MMR vaccine, which reduces the risk of measles by 97 percent.
Nine out of 10 unvaccinated people exposed to measles become infected, making measles one of the most contagious bugs out there.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said 24 unvaccinated minors — mostly under the age of four — have been infected in Columbus, the state’s largest city
Measles kills up to two out of every 1,000 infected people. In 2019, the US experienced the largest measles outbreak since the virus was declared eliminated in the country (file photo)
The CDC estimates that 130,000 people worldwide die from measles each year, although deaths in the United States are rare. Up to two in 1,000 infected people die.
Local officials first reported a measles outbreak in the central Ohio city last week, confirming four cases in an unnamed day care center.
An update this week has increased the number of infections sixfold and discovered ten new locations where transmission could have occurred.
“We are diligently working with the cases to identify potential exposures and notify people who have been exposed,” Columbus Public Health Commissioner Dr. Mysheika Roberts said in a statement Nov. 9.
WHAT ARE THE POSSIBLE COMPLICATIONS OF MEEAS?
Most people recover from measles within one or two weeks, but complications can sometimes arise.
People most at risk are teens and adults, infants less than one year old, and children with weakened immune systems.
Common complications include diarrhea and vomiting, middle ear or eye infections, laryngitis, seizures caused by fever, and lung infections such as pneumonia, bronchitis, and croup.
About one in 15 infected children gets one.
Less common complications include hepatitis, meningitis, and a brain infection called encephalitis.
Rare complications include serious eye conditions that can lead to vision loss, heart and nervous system problems, and a deadly brain infection called subacute sclerosing panencephalitis. This is very rare and occurs in only one in 25,000 cases.
Having measles during pregnancy increases the baby’s risk of low birth weight, premature birth, stillbirth, or miscarriage.
Source: NHS Choices
“The most important thing you can do to protect yourself against measles is to get vaccinated with the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine, which is safe and highly effective.”
The MMR vaccine is a three-in-one injection that prevents three potentially deadly conditions: measles, mumps, and rubella.
It is the intention that a child receives its first shot between 12 and 15 months. The first injection alone is 93 percent effective against infection.
They receive a second dose between four and six years of age, increasing their protection against the virus to 97 percent.
“Measles is both highly contagious and preventable,” said Joe Mazzola, health commissioner for Franklin County, which includes Columbus.
“It can be a serious disease, so we strongly advise anyone who has not been vaccinated to get vaccinated to prevent further spread.”
The first symptoms of measles often appear a week after someone is infected.
A sick person often gets a high fever, cough, runny nose and red eyes.
In the following days, the virus causes a rash that can spread to a person’s face, neck, arms, legs, and feet.
Unlike many other rashes, the spots caused by measles usually don’t hurt or itch.
An infected person may also experience the development of small white spots. Young children, the immunocompromised and the elderly are most at risk.
Measles first rose to prominence in the US in the early 20th century and was declared a nationally notifiable disease by federal officials in 1912.
The virus killed about 6,000 Americans each year before scientists first developed a vaccine in 1963.
Since then, measles rates in the US have plummeted and successful vaccination campaigns have almost eliminated it as a regular threat to Americans.
In 2000, U.S. officials declared that the virus had been eradicated from the U.S. population.
However, it occasionally occurs in America. While 90 percent of the population has been vaccinated by age two, the CDC reports, the remaining unvaccinated people are vulnerable.
In 2019, the country’s largest measles outbreak in decades hit the country, with 1,274 confirmed infections in 31 states.
This outbreak may be related to COVID-19 lockdowns and other pandemic measures that have disrupted medical treatment over the past two years.
The World Health Organization warned in July that the pandemic had caused a global “slump” in vaccinations around the world.
Officials now fear that rare but dangerous viruses like measles could spark a resurgence around the world.
In the summer, the US registered its first case of polio in more than a decade, just outside New York City.
While only one case was confirmed, wastewater data shows that there were probably thousands more that went undetected.
Some have also warned that the anti-vax movement, spurred by backlash over Covid vaccines, has also left many young children vulnerable.