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US could lose measles elimination status

The CDC is warning that if measles transmissions continue through September, the World Health Organization could strip the U.S. of its measles elimination status.

HOUSTON — Many consider the elimination of measles in the United States as one of the greatest achievements in modern history.

However, by next month, there is a chance the U.S. won’t be able to claim that anymore. 

The CDC is warning that if measles transmissions continue through September, the World Health Organization could strip the U.S. of its measles elimination status.

Because of the success of MMR vaccine, in 2000, the World Health Organization declared measles was eliminated in the U.S. But in recent years, health professionals say the rise of anti-vax propaganda has led to the diseases’ resurgence.

Dr. Helene Sheena, general pediatrician at the Kelsey Seybold Clinic, said losing the status would be a step back.

“Eradicating measles in the year 2000 was really an amazing feat for us to be able to say,” Dr. Sheena said. “So this would really be a bad reflection to have us lose the status.”

Dr. Sheena also believes losing the status would also have consequences globally as the U.S. often leads the way medically.

“It’s (other countries) really looking to us to say, ‘Well, if they are not doing it in the U.S., why should we be doing it?'”

There has been continuing transmission of the disease since last September. There have been more than 1,200 cases in 30 states, including Texas. Once the disease is actively transmitted for twelve months, the World Health Organization considers eliminating a country’s elimination status.

Globally measles is not a disease of the past. The WHO estimates in 2017, approximately 110,000 people died of the disease, and most were children under 5 years old.

It’s a threat most Americans haven’t had to worry about in recent decades, but health officials say anti-vax propaganda is changing that.

“I think people aren’t scared of diseases when they don’t see them anymore. But this is a disease that has really awful potential consequences," Dr. Sheena said.

If the disease continues to spread, there could also be an economic impact. Dr. Sheena said the CDC could start recommending everyone get three doses of the MMR vaccine instead of two.

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