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Measles cases will "certainly" surpass 2018 due to lack of vaccinations

Data: Adapted from a CDC chart; Chart: Axios Visuals

Measles cases in the U.S. this year are "certainly going to surpass those in 2018," mainly due to the lack of vaccination in certain groups, Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, tells Axios.

Why this matters: The extremely contagious virus, which can cause serious complications like pneumonia, brain swelling and even occasional death, requires a vaccination rate of 93%–95% in order to prevent outbreaks. "Whenever the level of vaccination gets below a certain level, you will get outbreaks," Fauci says.

Driving the news: Rockland County in New York rocked the nation when it declared a local state of emergency starting Wednesday, with a directive barring unvaccinated children under 18 from countywide public spaces unless they are under 6 months or have a medical exemption..

  • The community — which only had a 72.9% vaccination rate in those under 18 — is paying the price with 156 cases reported as of March 28.
  • John Lyon, spokesperson for Rockland County Executive Ed Day, says the directive is considered a Class B misdemeanor, which could have up to a $500 fine and 90 days in jail.
  • "We don't want to put any people in jail, though. That's insane," Lyon tells Axios.
  • But, he adds, they needed to take action after the outbreak had gone on for 6 months and there was growing resistance to their efforts to track the whereabouts of infected people the 4 days before and 4 days after they got a fever when they were contagious.
  • The reason this is needed, Lyon adds, is to inform the public if they were near those places, so they could take action to protect themselves from the worst of the virus by either getting a vaccination or immunoglobulin shot to boost immunity.
  • They are already seeing a large uptick in vaccinations since Wednesday morning, he reports.

Meanwhile, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows outbreaks reported in New York City, Washington State, Texas, Illinois and California.

The bottom line: "Unfortunately, it will take the reality of the deleterious consequences of non-vaccination in communities" before the outbreak will stop, Fauci says. "This is a virus that can kill you. Most children recover quite well but [some will not.]"

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