Numbers show just how deadly measles can be
An outbreak at Disneyland in December of last year caused at least 59 people to contract measles, and as cases of the viral disease continue to grow, so, too, does an epidemic of outrage over what is considered by many to be a preventable danger.
According to the CDC, in the decade leading up to the 1963 licensure of the measles vaccine, the United States an average of 549,000 measles cases and 495 measles deaths were reported annually, with the number of yearly unreported cases estimated at 3 to 4 million. By comparison, from 2001 to 2011, a total of 911 cases were reported, an average of 62 per year during a span when measles vaccinations hovered above 90 percent nationally.
More recently, as increasing numbers of parents have chosen to eschew science, the number of cases has jumped; in 2014 the CDC reported 644 cases of measles, and more than 100 cases were reported in January of this year alone. The CDC explains how this can happen, despite responsible vaccination schedules being observed by most people:
Outbreaks of measles most commonly occur in communities with pockets of persons who were unvaccinated because of philosophic or religious beliefs. Pockets of unvaccinated persons also occur in states with high vaccination coverage, highlighting the importance of state health departments assessing measles susceptibility at the local level.
Measles was declared eliminated from the United States in 2000, but in the same year, just 73 percent of children worldwide received at least one vaccination by their first birthday, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). By 2013 that number had increased to 84 percent, causing measles deaths to drop by 75 percent — from an estimated 544,200 in 2000 to 145,700 in 2013. Still, about 400 people die every day from measles, an average of 16 deaths every hour. Between 2000 and 2013, the WHO estimates the global number of deaths avoided because of the vaccine at 15.6 million people, roughly equal to the populations of New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago and San Francisco combined.