Los Angeles County has declared a measles outbreak, becoming the largest metropolitan area in the United States to be hit by the resurgence of the disease.
As the New York Times reported, public health officials made the declaration in reaction to a surge in cases. As the report noted, vaccination rates are usually high in California but a single case of measles can spread quickly to those who are not vaccinated and infants who are too young to receive their immunization, as well as the elderly whose immune systems are suppressed.
The Los Angeles public health department said there have been five confirmed cases of measles and they believe that additional exposures may have taken place this month at the Los Angeles International Airport, on the UCLA campus, at restaurants near Glendale, and at the California State University library. It was not clear yet how many could have been in contact with the disease, but the number could be in the hundreds of thousands.
Los Angeles is not the only area struggling with measles outbreaks. As the New York Times reported, there have been 626 confirmed cases across 22 states this year, the second-highest number in the last two decades. Many other large cities have been hit as well, including communities in and around New York City.
At issue is the growing number of people who oppose vaccinations, which public health officials say fuels the spread of the disease.
“Convincing individuals and communities who oppose vaccination to get immunized has proved difficult for some political leaders,” the New York Times report noted.
“In New York City earlier this month, amid a growing crisis, Mayor Bill de Blasio declared a public health emergency, requiring residents of some Brooklyn neighborhoods to receive the measles vaccine.”
Officials across the country have tried to take action to prevent the spread of measles, including a county in New York that banned unvaccinated people from public spaces — a move that was later overturned by a judge. New York City is also taking action to address unvaccinated individuals, mandating that some people get vaccinations or face a fine, Fox News reported.
That action has also been challenged in court.
Public health officials have tried to push back against the anti-vaccination movement, saying that arguments against vaccinations are based on pseudo-science and often outright lies. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention noted that the MMR vaccine is 97 percent effective in protecting people against measles.