Measles: the United States faces the worst epidemic since 2000

DISEASE Among developed countries, the United States has the largest number of unvaccinated children against the disease, ahead of France and the United Kingdom

Measles: the United States faces the worst epidemic since 2000
Measles: the United States faces the worst epidemic since 2000

The measles epidemic is worrying in the United States. US authorities had recorded this Wednesday 695 cases since the beginning of the year, the worst resurgence of the disease since its official elimination in 2000, according to the Centers for Disease Prevention (CDC).

The epidemic comes against a backdrop of growing anti-vaccine movement. Parents, opposed to vaccinating their children, invoke religious exemptions that exist in most US states to circumvent immunization requirements in schools.

A campaign for vaccination

The US authorities are trying to combat the reluctance, stressing the importance of vaccinating children against a disease that can lead to complications with potentially fatal consequences.

"Measles vaccines are among the most studied medical products we have, and their safety has been established for years," US Secretary of Health Alex Azar said Wednesday in a statement confirming the new record. He announced a huge national campaign for next week, "to reinforce the message that vaccines are healthy and an effective way" to protect families.

State of emergency in the state of New York

According to figures released Wednesday night by UNICEF, the United States is among the developed countries the one with the most children unvaccinated against the disease, ahead of France and the United Kingdom.

The number of children under one year of age who did not receive a first dose of vaccine over the period 2010-2017 in the United States reached 2.59 million, against 608,000 in France and 527,000 in the United Kingdom, says this based on figures from the World Health Organization.

If 22 US states are concerned by the resurgence of this highly contagious disease, New York State is by far the most affected. Local authorities have declared a state of health emergency for the most affected neighborhoods, imposing restrictions on vaccination for residents without medical dispensation, strict controls of vaccination certificates in schools, and fines for offenders.

A resurgence that worries all over the world

Measles is in full resurgence this year around the world. Reported cases increased four-fold in the first quarter of 2019 compared to the same period in 2018, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

In total, around the world, some 169 million children under the age of one year, or 21.1 million children a year, had not received a first dose of vaccine over the period 2010-2017, a indicated Unicef. Nigeria (4 million unvaccinated children), India (2.9 million), Pakistan and Indonesia are the countries with the highest number of unimmunized children.

"If we really want to stop the spread of this dangerous and preventable disease, we must immunize all children, in rich and poor countries," said Henrietta Fore, executive director of Unicef, quoted in a statement.