On Monday, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention came out with its latest measles numbers and, let's be honest, they weren't great. At least 465 cases across 19 states have been reported so far this year, including 78 in the last week alone. Nationwide, that means more people have caught the notoriously contagious disease in the past three and a half months than all of last year. According to the CDC, it's the "second greatest number of cases reported in the US since measles was eliminated in 2000." As outbreaks continue to spike around the country, local governments are increasingly feeling pressure to do something about them.
Measles is one of the world's most infectious illnesses but until recently cases had been declining. So what's led to recent outbreaks? Rockland County, in New York state, declared a state of emergency last week following a severe re-emergence of the preventable virus. It's far from an isolated case, with the US already on course this year to see the most measles cases since 2000, when the disease was officially eliminated. Other countries, such as Mexico, France and Madagascar, have seen similar outbreaks in communities with gaps in immunity.
A county in New York state has declared a state of emergency following a severe outbreak of measles. Rockland County, on the Hudson river north of New York City, has barred unvaccinated children from public spaces after 153 cases were confirmed. Violating the order will be punishable by a fine of $500 (£378) and up to six months in prison. The announcement follows other outbreaks of the disease in Washington, California, Texas and Illinois. Vaccination rates have dropped steadily in the US with many parents objecting for philosophical or religious reasons, or because they believe misleading information that vaccines cause autism in children.
The following article is a written adaptation of a recent episode of What Next, Slate's new daily news podcast. Listen to What Next for free every day via Apple Podcasts, Spotify, TuneIn, Stitcher, Overcast, Google Play, or wherever you get your podcasts. In Brooklyn, New York, there's this hotline parents can call if they're looking for advice. It's a Yiddish phrase that roughly translates to housewife, or keystone of the home, and the advice on this phone line is geared toward Orthodox Jewish people. You see, right now, revealing the "truth" about vaccines is important in this tight-knit community. New York is in the middle of one of the largest outbreaks of measles in decades--there are at least 214 confirmed cases since last October.
For the second time this month, Los Angeles County public health officials are warning travelers that a person with measles flew into Los Angeles International Airport. The person arrived at LAX on March 5 and traveled through Los Angeles County while infectious. "We may continue to see measles cases that travel through L.A. County, so it is important if you or someone you know has been exposed to or has measles to contact your healthcare provider by phone right away before going in," Dr. Muntu Davis, Los Angeles County Health Officer, said in a statement. "People who may have been exposed to measles and who have not been immunized, may receive measles immunization and be protected from developing the disease. Getting immunized is the best way to keep from getting and spreading measles."