- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 27, 2019

The federal government has already tracked 159 cases of measles spanning 10 states so far in 2019, health officials told Congress Wednesday, warning that “vaccine hesitancy” is fueling a resurgence of the infectious disease.

Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, and Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told a House panel that measles is “totally vaccine-preventable,” but it’s being hindered by bad information.

“Measles outbreaks have been and continue to be a constant threat to the American people,” Dr. Messonnier told the Energy and Commerce subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations. “Vaccine hesitancy is the result of a misunderstanding of the risk and seriousness of the disease regarding the safety and effectiveness of vaccines.”

The two doctors testified against a backdrop of protests from anti-vaccine activists decked in red, whom popular cultures has dubbed “anti-vaxxers,” and who loudly complained the government’s push was misguided. The protestors argue, citing suspect science and anecdotal stories, that vaccines carry health risks to those who get them.

“It almost killed my child,” one protester shouted after the hearing concluded.

The recent surge of cases is attributable to unvaccinated persons who travel abroad, contracting the disease elsewhere then bringing it back to vulnerable communities in the U.S.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, measles was eliminated in the U.S. in 2000 but made a comeback after three outbreaks in 2008 linked back to cases in Israel and Ukraine.

In 2018, the U.S. recorded 372 cases of measles.

“We can tell when the virus is reintroduced into our country from where it comes from,” Dr. Fauci said. They also know where the cases are in the U.S.: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, New York, Oregon, Texas and Washington.

“What is particularly disconcerting is that is a public health problem for which science has already provided a solution,” Rep. Frank Pallone, chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, said.

The doctors told Congress that vaccines rely on “herd immunities” in order to protect against infectious diseases.

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