Measles outbreak: Counties in Illinois, Florida and Texas among those at highest risk of disease, say Johns Hopkins researchers
While we're not even halfway through 2019, the number of cases of Measles reported across the US this year is already a concerning 764. To put that into perspective, the total number of reported cases in the entirety of 2018 was 349. In 2017, that number was 120, and a year before that, just 86. The year 2014, when the total number of cases was 667, was the last time the number of breakouts was so concerning.
In a bid to help concerned authorities combat the threat, researchers from Johns Hopkins University have put together a list of the top 25 potential hotspots for outbreaks where they can focus their efforts.
The research was published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases and identifies which parts of the US are at the most risk based on a model they developed based on the country's population size, the rate of non-medical vaccination exemptions, their access to international air travel to other at-risk countries, and incidence rates of infections in those destinations.
The model, which has successfully predicted the outbreaks that have already been seen this year in New York and Oregon, listed out a number of counties at high risk of seeing measles cases rise in the coming months. Unsurprisingly, most lie adjacent to areas that have already experienced outbreaks.
Researchers have warned that the counties which may see an outbreak next are Cook, Illinois; Los Angeles, California; San Mateo, California; San Diego, California; Queens, New York; King, Washington; Maricopa, Arizona; Broward, Florida; Orange, Florida; Hillsborough, Florida; Miami-Dade, Florida; Clark, Nevada; Harris, Texas; Honolulu, Hawaii; Wayne, Michigan; Tarrant, Texas; Travis, Texas; Multnomah, Oregon; Essex, New Jersey; Denver, Colorado; Salt Lake, Utah; Suffolk, Massachusetts; Clayton, Georgia; Hennepin, Minnesota; and Loudon, Virginia.
"There has been a resurgence of measles cases, among other vaccine-preventable diseases, in the US and other countries in recent years," said Johns Hopkins University civil engineer Lauren Gardner. "Measles, in particular, poses a serious public health threat due to the highly contagious nature of the disease."
Indeed, the US is not the only country that has found measles making a comeback. The WHO termed the disease a "global health crisis" after a preliminary survey conducted during the first three months of 2019 tallied a 300% increase in cases across the world.
In certain regions in Africa, the numbers have risen by as much as 700% from the year before, and the outlook becomes all the bleaker based on the UN's assertion that almost 90% of all global cases go unreported.
A part of the reason the cases are on the rise is because of a growing fear of vaccines among pockets of population, with it reported that vaccine rates are declining worldwide — this despite the fact that an estimated 20 million lives have been saved by immunization from the disease due to vaccines since 2000.
The WHO has listed fear of vaccines as one of the most dire threats to human health in 2019, with lawmakers in Europe and Australia having to take the drastic step of imposing fines and punishments on parents who did not have their children vaccinated.