Dec 27, 2019

America's dangerous backslide on infectious diseases

Photo: George Frey/Getty Images

After a century of progress against infectious diseases in America, experts now warn of a “very worrisome trend."

Why it matters: Infectious diseases kill far fewer today than a century ago, the AP notes, but the numbers are moving in the wrong direction.

  • Measles hit their highest U.S. rate in 27 years, concentrated among Orthodox Jews.
  • Hepatitis A is up more than 10x from 2017, sparked by an outbreak among the homeless and drug users.
  • And eastern equine encephalitis killed 15 of the 38 people diagnosed this year. The 38 cases is double the previous rate.

The big picture: America remains very fortunate compared to our fellow global citizens.

  • Measles killed 142,300 people worldwide in 2018, compared to zero in the U.S. in 2019.

Between the lines: America's measles elimination status isn't as important as "the fact that we remain highly vulnerable," Baylor pediatrics professor Peter Hotez told Axios' Eileen Drage O'Reilly earlier this year.

  • There are "at least 100 geographic pockets in the U.S. where a high percentage of kids are not being vaccinated, together with measles cases now regularly imported from Europe where measles is even more widespread," Hotez said.

The bottom line: Backsliding is bad, particularly when it's largely the result of human choices, rather than mother nature's ingenuity.

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Measles-related death toll tops 6,000 in Democratic Republic of the Congo

Deaths from measles in the Democratic Republic of the Congo surpassed 6,000, with children over the age of 5 most vulnerable to the infectious disease, new data from the World Health Organization showed Tuesday.

Why it matters: About 310,000 suspected measles cases, one-fourth of which are in kids over age 5, have been reported since the beginning of 2019. Vaccinations for children have made headway in some parts of the country, but public health officials are still trying to keep the disease at bay.

Go deeper: DRC health leader discusses what's being done to fight Ebola

Most Americans think measles vaccine has "very high" preventative care benefits

A vial containing the MMR vaccine. Photo: Mel Melcon/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

56% of Americans believe the measles vaccine has "very high" preventative care benefits — an 11-point increase since 2016, according to data out Tuesday from the Pew Research Center.

The big picture: While overall approval of the vaccine (88%) has remained unchanged, Pew credits the increase in perceived preventative health benefits to improved awareness of how measles outbreaks have become a public health problem.

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Unvaccinated students in Seattle will be banned from school

Close-up of folder containing medical forms labeled Refusal to Vaccinate. Photo: Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images

Students enrolled in the Seattle Public School district who are unvaccinated will not be allowed to attend classes starting Jan. 8, district officials have warned, per the Seattle Times.

The big picture: With cases of contagious but preventable diseases like measles spiking to new highs in recent years, cities and schools have been trying to mandate vaccinations to keep illnesses at bay.

Go deeperArrowJan 2, 2020