CDC has new warning on measles

US may soon lose its elimination status

Fred Bodimer
August 29, 2019 - 5:15 pm

ST. LOUIS (KMOX) — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the United States is on the verge of losing its measles elimination status.  

Due to such a low number of cases, the World Health Organization back in 2000 officially declared measles eliminated in the United States. But now, with more than 1,000 cases reported this year, that elimination status may be at risk.

"If that continues to the one-year cutoff point, bang! They take back the elimination card," said Dr. William Schaffner in an interview with CNN. Dr. Schaffner is an infectious disease specialist at Vanderbilt University Medical Center and a longtime adviser to the CDC on vaccine issues.  

Related: Worst measles outbreak in 27 years continues to grow

"Losing the elimination status of measles is an embarrassment," Dr. Schaffner told CNN. "Public health will be embarrassed. It's like having a black eye."

A decision could come as soon as Oct. 1. 

"I'm concerned it will reduce the motivation of other ministers of health around the world in trying to eliminate measles in their countries because they'll say "Gee if the U.S. couldn't maintain it, why should we work so hard on this?" Schaffner said. 

The biggest outbreak in America is occurring in New York state — where a nearly year-long measles outbreak has hit a community of Orthodox Jews, many of whom oppose vaccination.

Related: Does your child need the measles vaccine?

"My concern is that enough people aren't immunizing their kids," said SLU Care's Dr. Ken Haller, a pediatrician at SSM Health Cardinal Glennon Children's Hospital. "We might start getting to a pint where we have a critical mass of un-immunized children so that if measles gets introduced into a community, that may be the spark to spread from one kid to another to another and that may be allow for the measles to get re-established in the United States.  And then we may have a really hard time getting rid of it."

Dr. Haller said misinformation about the danger of the measles vaccine remains out there — and that is part of the reason for the insurgence of the disease.

"To be a parent and be scared for your child's safety is normal, rational and healthy," Dr. Haller told KMOX. "And if someone brings these concerns up to me, I'm very glad to hear it.   What I talk to parents about at that point is not that there's anything wrong with being scared for your child's safety, but if you are going to be scared, be scared of the appropriate thing — which are diseases like the measles."

For more on measles, go to the CDC website.  

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