This article was originally published in The Times of Israel.
With almost no measles in the United States since the 1990s, today’s generation of American parents are not familiar with the disease and buy in too easily to the anti-vaccination movement currently in vogue, said measles vaccine developer Dr. Samuel Katz.
“Unless you have worked in Sub-Saharan Africa, you have no anxiety to protect against it,” Katz said.
The last surviving member of the team of researchers that developed the measles vaccine 50 years ago believes it is “ludicrous,” however, to get upset over the Center for Disease Control’s December 5 announcement that there were 175 casesof the disease in the United States in 2013, a tripling of the annual average.
Notably, 58 of those cases were among Hasidic Jews in the Brooklyn’s Boro Park and Williamsburg neighborhoods. It was the largest outbreak of measles in the US since 1996.
“It’s all so relative,” said Katz, who was honored last week by the CDC. “True, there were 175 cases in the US so far this year, but there are 3-4 million cases a year worldwide. In Western Europe alone there are 25,000 cases per year.”
On an average day, 430 children die of measles worldwide. In 2011, there were an estimated 158,000 measles deaths.
In a phone interview with The Times of Israel, Katz, professor emeritus of pediatrics at Duke University, emphasized that the measles cases in the US were all the result of the importation of the virus from other countries.
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© 2013 Renee Ghert-Zand. All rights reserved.