Here's How the Latest Measles Outbreak Started

Kid getting measles shot
Kid at hospital gets measles vaccineGetty Images

The Story

Measles is making a comeback.

Wait, measles?

Yes. So far this year, more than 670 people in 22 states have gotten measles. That’s a record high since the US completely eliminated the disease in 2000.

Pause. What exactly is measles?

An extremely contagious virus with potentially serious consequences. Someone with the virus can spread it just by sneezing or coughing. At first it feels like getting a cold – think: cough, sore throat, runny nose, fever. But can also lead to a rash. It can be especially dangerous for kids and lead to things like deafness, brain damage, pneumonia, and death. Doctors say the primary way to prevent the virus is to get the vaccine.

Wow. How did this outbreak start?

This latest outbreak started last year and is concentrated in a few states – New York, New Jersey, Washington, and California. It spread primarily from people who brought the virus back from other countries like Israel, Ukraine, and the Philippines that are experiencing large outbreaks. Most people who get measles aren’t vaccinated. And there are concerns that lower vaccination rates in the US, as well as misinformation about vaccines are helping the virus spread.

Lower vaccination rates...why's that?

In recent years, more parents in the US have been saying ‘no thanks’ to vaccinating their kids. Experts say there may be a few reasons for this. One, lack of insurance or access to health care. Two, a growing number of parents claiming exemptions. Even though every state requires kids to be vaccinated to go to public school, some states let parents opt out for pretty much any reason. And this leads to communities with lower vaccination rates and a higher risk of infection.

I know this is controversial. Give me the opinions.

Some parents are worried about vaccines causing autism. This comes from a study in the ‘90s that was exposed for being based on false data and was later retracted. Multiple studies since have confirmed this isn’t true. Others don’t think vaccines are necessary, since the diseases they prevent have been out of sight, out of mind for so long now (psst, that’s thanks to vaccines). There’s a list of other concerns. Vaccine supporters say the shots save lives. Philanthropist Melinda Gates is one of these people. When she recently stopped by Skimm HQ, we asked her to weigh in on the outbreak. This is what she said.

PS: Want to know more about the vaccine debate and what’s being done to prevent another measles outbreak? We Skimm’d all that in theSkimm app. If you download the app now, you can text us your questions each week on a different news topic and get an exclusive Skimm FAQ. Psst: the first week is free.

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