- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 17, 2019

Missouri has become the 13th state to report a confirmed case of measles this year, which has seen the potentially deadly virus spread four times faster than last year, according to federal data.

State health officials said Wednesday that a person in eastern Missouri had contracted the disease while traveling out of state, without identifying the person or where the person had traveled. Officials said they working with the person to identify potentially infected contacts in Missouri and arrange vaccinations, if needed.

Missouri joins California, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Texas and Washington state in reporting confirmed measles cases this year.

As of March 7, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention this year had recorded 228 cases of measles in 12 states. The CDC recorded a total of 372 measles cases last year.

The rapid increase in measles infections extends beyond the U.S. — the World Health Organization recently reported that infections tripled between 2017 and 2018, to 82,596, the highest number recorded this decade. The virus caused 72 deaths worldwide in 2018.

The measles virus was eliminated in the U.S. in 2000. Health officials blame its resurgence on falling vaccination rates fueled by myths that the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine increases the risk of children developing autism. The bogus information has been debunked several times.

In New York on Tuesday, a federal judge rejected a request for a temporary restraining order that would have allowed 44 unvaccinated children to attend school in Rockland County.

U.S. District Judge Vincent Briccetti cited the state’s “unprecedented measles outbreak” in denying the temporary order. New York state has reported more than 275 confirmed cases since October.

Rockland County, a suburban enclave north of New York City, has reported 145 measles cases since October. The outbreak has mostly affected the area’s close-knit Orthodox Jewish families.

Dr. Patricia Schnabel Ruppert, Rockland County’s health commissioner, issued the order barring the unvaccinated children from school and expressed frustration with the persistence of “anti-vaxxers,” whom she has called “a small but vocal group.”

Parents of unvaccinated children in the county argue that vaccination requirements violate their religious liberty.

Health officials say that the unvaccinated can thwart “herd immunity” — a community’s ability to resist the spread of a disease when a significant percentage of its population has received vaccinations.

“When children are not vaccinated, it opens the door to potential ‘hot spots,’ as demonstrated in Washington state,” Dr. Robert L. Quigley, regional medical director of International SOS & MedAire, told The Washington Times.

Officials in Clark County in Washington state has reported at least 71 cases of measles this year, and researchers cite the county as a case study in what can go wrong when a failure to vaccinate reaches a threshold.

In 2017, only 78 percent of kindergartners entering Clark Country schools had completed the required MMR vaccine.

Clark County’s outbreak has escalated so quickly that health officials there last week ordered more than 800 potentially exposed students to stay home until early next month.

One of the most contagious pathogens on the planet, measles invades the throat and nose and spread through the air by coughs or sneezes.

Up to 4 million people a year in the United States suffered from it before 1963, when vaccines began being introduced. The MMR vaccination cycle is initially delivered to toddlers 12 to 15 months of age, with a second follow-up dose given between 4 and 6.

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