ROCKVILLE – Measles cases are at a 25-year high, and Maryland has not avoided the outbreak.
As of May 9, there were five reported cases of measles in the state — a number that can continue to grow as the disease spreads throughout the country. While Maryland is the not one of the harder-hit states, it still is a cause of concern for local officials as more and more cases have been reported in the past few years.
According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), there are 940 individual cases of the measles in the United States in 2019, as of May 24 -the highest since 1994. It is a stunning turn of an events for a disease that health professionals considered eliminated by the year 2000, but thanks to a movement of people who doubt the safety of common vaccines, the disease is making a comeback, according to health professionals.
“This current outbreak is deeply troubling, and I call upon all healthcare providers to assure patients about the efficacy and safety of the measles vaccine,” said CDC Director Robert Redfield. “And, I encourage all Americans to adhere to CDC vaccine guidelines in order to protect themselves, their families, and their communities from measles and other vaccine-preventable diseases. We must work together as a nation to eliminate this disease once and for all.”
While the sudden rise of the disease is spreading, a new issue has arisen for government public relations officials such as Redfield — having to educate people about the safety of vaccines.
While there have always been people who questioned the safety of various vaccines, in recent years the number has grown – with people refusing to have their children vaccinated out of fear that it may cause some sort of debilitating disorder such as autism. While medical studies show that vaccines are overwhelmingly safe and necessary for public health, that has not stopped many parents from opting their kids out of vaccinations for the measles, chicken pox or polio.
The skepticism over vaccines has led to a new public health crisis — one that doctors thought was over,given that vaccines have all but eradicated many of America’s most-dangerous or debilitating common illnesses.
“I think basically what we are doing is reminding people that vaccinations are the best protection against measles,” said Mary Anderson, a spokesperson for the Montgomery County Department of Health and Humans Services.
Anderson said that the county has had to dedicate new resources and effort to reaffirming its position that vaccinations are necessary, in light of the spread in skepticism.
However, Anderson said, Montgomery County is not a hotbed of anti-vaccination parents. She points to statistics that show that 99.25 percent of Montgomery County Public School students have been vaccinated.
So far, in 2019, Montgomery County has avoided the measles, according to the Maryland Department of Health. All five of the reported measles cases were in the Baltimore area, within zip codes 21208, 21209 and 21215 – with the most recent case in Maryland as a whole being reported on May 9.
The most-recent confirmed case of the measles in Montgomery County was a year ago, in May 2018.
“While the outbreak is currently localized to a small area of the state, the best way to prevent measles in Maryland, or anywhere people might travel, is through vaccination,” said Maryland Deputy Secretary for Public Health Frances B. Phillips. “We continue to encourage all Marylanders to get vaccinated or check with their health care providers to ensure they and their families are up-to-date on vaccinations.”
In less than six months, the number of measles cases in the United States has almost tripled from last year, with the highest concentration of cases being in New York and Washington State. According to CDC officials, the outbreaks are a result of unvaccinated people, traveling to countries where measles is still widespread, bringing the disease back to the United States and exposing other unvaccinated people to the virus.