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Sunday, September 1, 2019

Measles Cases Soar in Europe

In The Politics of Autism, I look at the discredited notion that vaccines cause autism. Twitter, Facebook, and other social media platforms have helped spread this dangerous myth.
Palko Karasz at NYT reports that the World Health Organization has reported a resurgence of measles in Europe.
The number of cases in the first half of the year in the European region doubled in comparison with 2018 — with 90,000 people infected, compared with 44,175 in the first six months of last year, the W.H.O. said in a statement.

“We are backsliding; we are on the wrong track,” Dr. Kate O’Brien, the director of the W.H.O.’s immunization department, said at a news conference.
The W.H.O. monitors the elimination of the disease across the region, and countries with continuous transmission of the virus for 12 consecutive months are no longer considered measles-free.
Albania, Britain, the Czech Republic and Greece, which had declared measles eliminated, joined 12 other nations — including France, Germany, Poland, Romania and Russia — where the disease is endemic, the W.H.O. said.

Even countries that had eliminated the disease have seen a return of infections. The United States is experiencing the worst measles outbreak in decades, with a record number of cases since the last large epidemic, in 1992, and since measles was declared eliminated in 2000, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Elimination” does not mean that the disease is completely absent. It indicates that a country has gone more than 12 months without continuous disease transmission. That is why health experts have called on people to continue to vaccinate children.

But a growing movement promoting skepticism of the vaccine — mainly because of the belief, which scientists have argued against, that it could cause autism in children — has contributed to falling vaccination rates in many developed nations, and the shots are not compulsory everywhere.