The resurgence of measles in America, and the human costs of foregoing vaccination
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This is a comeback that no one was hoping for: Measles, which in 2000 was declared eradicated in the United States, has infected dozens in California, Texas, and New York this year alone as more parents are opting out of vaccinating their children. The highly contagious disease kills about one in every 1,000 patients.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the U.S. had 189 reported cases of measles in 2013; that's a small number compared to what was seen prior to the vaccine's introduction in 1967, but enough to make people worried. "We really don't want a child to die from measles, but it's almost inevitable," Anne Schuchat, director of immunizations and respiratory diseases at the CDC, tells USA Today. "Major resurgences of diseases can sneak up on us."
It's not just measles, either; cases of meningitis and pertussis (whooping cough) are persisting as well. The most vulnerable to these diseases are infants, children with compromised immune systems, and those who cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons. As more children enter the school system without being vaccinated — in Idaho, Oregon, Illinois, Michigan, and Vermont, for example, 4.5 percent of kindergartners were not vaccinated for non-medical reasons — experts say the number of cases will continue to rise.
For the children who are hit by measles, pertussis, or meningitis, it's not like trying to shake off a cold. Meningitis can cause limbs to blacken and wither, leading to amputation and death. Brady Alcaide's infant body couldn't fight off whooping cough, and he died at 9 weeks, so swollen his mother decided to have a closed casket so as to not upset the family. Doctors have no idea where Brady contracted whooping cough. His mother, Kathryn Riffenburg, shared the details of her son's short life with USA Today, for this reason: "I hope Brady has saved babies and protected them because we have spread his story."
Read more about some of the human costs of preventable diseases at USA Today.