Thanks to some of the dumbest people on earth, measles – a disease America declared eradicated in the year 2000 – is back! There is literally no reason one of the richest countries on the planet should be dealing with measles in 2019, but thanks to anti-vaxxer parents who incorrectly believe vaccines cause autism or other disorders, here we are. At the end of April, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that more than 700 people have caught the virus this year, the highest number of cases in 25 years.
Now, a new study released yesterday from researchers at Johns Hopkins University and the University of Texas warns that Miami-Dade County is at high risk for an outbreak. Analysts ranked every county in the U.S. by its relative measles-outbreak risk — and, according to the data, Dade has the third-highest risk in the country. Only Cook County, Illinois (Chicago), and Los Angeles County, California, showed more warning signs. Queens County, New York, and King County, Washington (Seattle), rounded out the top five.
The results were published yesterday in the peer-reviewed journal Lancet Infectious Diseases. The study also included an interactive map, which warns that Broward County has the seventh-highest measles risk in the country. Florida's Orange and Hillsborough Counties also made the top 20.
"There has been a resurgence of measles cases, among other vaccine preventable diseases, in the U.S. and other countries in recent years," coauthor Lauren Gardner, an associate professor in the Johns Hopkins Department of Civil Engineering, said in a media release. "Measles, in particular, poses a serious public health threat due to the highly contagious nature of the disease. It is therefore critical that we proactively identify areas most likely to experience outbreaks to strategically target for surveillance and control."
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The researchers say the latest spike in measles cases is due to two compounding problems. Travelers are coming to the U.S. from measles-stricken countries. And, while that never used to be much of an issue, misinformed anti-vaxxers in the U.S. have created pockets where measles can spread again.
To compile the map, analysts counted nonmedical vaccine exemption rates per county and compared those to each county's rate of travel, population size, and proximity to other global measles outbreaks. The study's authors noted that outbreaks have already occurred in Washington state and New York City. They added that viruses only need a small, self-contained pocket of people to thrive, and cited Brooklyn's tiny, mostly unvaccinated Orthodox Jewish population as an example.
In addition to the virus' trademark rash, measles also causes a high fever and can lead to pneumonia. It's particularly dangerous for infants and young children. The best defense? Vaccinate your kids.
"Anti-vaxxers are denying the best and very successful medical science we have and choosing instead to rely on fraudulent claims, such as a purported link to autism, that have been uniformly debunked by evidence and analysis over the last two decades," wrote coauthor Sahotra Sarkar, professor of philosophy and integrative biology at the University of Texas at Austin.