According to the CDC, some of the recent measles outbreaks were in part caused by targeted campaigns spreading misinformation. On a call about the recent measles outbreaks in New York and Washington, Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases (NCIRD), told participants, “We have definitely seen misinformation about vaccines being sent to susceptible communities; that is, communities susceptible to that misinformation… We definitely see that information targeted and these vulnerable communities are the communities in which we’re seeing these outbreaks right now.”
The Resurgence of Measles and Mumps
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued the latest data on mumps outbreaks in the U.S., reporting that 736 people had contracted the vaccine-preventable mumps infection. Since late 2015, public health officials have seen 150 outbreaks and 9,200 cases from January 2016 to June 2017 alone. Previous outbreaks occurred in close-knit groups like schools, universities, workplaces and large parties and events. Alongside mumps, measles outbreaks are increasing.
The diseases have the most impact on the most vulnerable populations: babies, the elderly, and other immune-suppressed people.
Public health officials have been issuing warnings over the recent uptick in measles infections and are now looking at the increases in mumps, too. Since 1989, when the two-MMR-dose vaccination program was introduced, U.S. cases of mumps decreased over 99 percent with only a few hundred cases reported annually. Since 2006, that number has steadily increased.
The rise of vaccine-preventable diseases has public health officials ringing the alarm bells. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar spoke to a CDC telebriefing April 29, saying “we’re very concerned about the recent troubling rise in cases of measles, which was declared eliminated from our country in 2000.”
“Today, CDC is reporting 704 cases of measles from 22 states,” Azar said. “This is the greatest number of cases reported in the U.S. since measles was eliminated… Most of us have never seen the deadly consequences that vaccine-preventable diseases can have on a child, family or community, and that’s the way we want to keep it. Vaccine-preventable diseases belong in the history books, not in our emergency room.”
Dr. Messonnier also said that the outbreaks of measles are due to two large outbreaks, one in Washington state and the other in New York. While Washington has declared its outbreak over, the one in New York persists — raising the chance that measles may get a foothold in the United States once again.
Re-Allocating Healthcare Dollars to Preventable Diseases
As the debate over healthcare coverage remains a top issue for the 2020 presidential campaign, these new outbreaks add preventable budgetary impacts for healthcare spending. In the United States, health spending totaled $74.6 billion in 1970. By 2000, health expenditures had reached about $1.4 trillion, and in 2017 the amount spent on health had more than doubled to $3.5 trillion. On a per capita basis, health spending has increased more than thirtyfold in the past four decades, from $355 per person in 1970 to $10,739 in 2017. In constant 2017 dollars, the increase was almost sixfold from $1,797 in 1970 to $10,739 in 2017.
“Stopping these measles outbreaks is a priority for the CDC. We’re working 24/7 to protect Americans. Measles can be extremely costly and disruptive to public health, costing an average of around $32,000 per case. That does not capture cost from the community perspective — the tragic impact measles can have on individuals and their families,” Dr. Messonnier continued.
The CDC is addressing the current outbreak in several ways:
- Incident Management. Implementing an incident management structure within the national center for immunization and respiratory diseases to respond to the measles outbreak.
- Stressing Recognition & Prevention to Healthcare Providers. Reinforcing to healthcare providers the guidelines for recognizing and preventing measles.
- Combating misinformation. The CDC has developed a toolkit with resources that physicians can use with parents and other patients to reinforce what we know about measles and vaccines.
- Addressing Vaccine Hesitancy. The CDC has created new resources and updated existing resources to counter misinformation. CDC continues outreach to the medical associations to help spread clear, consistent, incredible vaccine information through trusted sources.
Should I Worry About My Vaccinations?
Most adults are protected against measles, including people who were born before the measles vaccine was recommended and even people who only got a single dose of measles. The CDC is focused on adults who are at higher risk and those who are traveling internationally, university students and adults specifically living in these communities that are experiencing outbreaks.