Fourteen years ago, the virus that causes measles in children was so rare in the United States that it was considered eradicated. Although it continued to exact a toll in other countries — the deaths of an estimated 164,000 people around the world each year — one of the most infectious childhood diseases was but a bad memory here.
Mandatory childhood vaccinations, enforced by parents, schools, and health clinics turned the tide. In 2011, there were 220 measles cases reported in the United States, followed by 54 in 2012. Last year, though, the total spiked to 187. In the early months of 2014, about 70 cases have been identified.
Most Americans favor childhood inoculations, but health officials blame the rise in measles cases on vaccination skeptics. Some parents have unfounded fears that the vaccine will trigger autism in their children, so they shun the shots that keep children safe.
Health officials in New York City recently urged people to get their children inoculated, after at least 16 cases of measles, in adults and children, were identified in Manhattan and the Bronx. Four of the people were hospitalized.
Measles was a common childhood disease that just about every American household survived, then the nation ignored. But it’s not child’s play.
Americans who care about their children’s health — and the health of their communities — need to get their children vaccinated.