Measles outbreaks: The other congressional hearing you should follow today

Amid a significant rise in measles cases across the United States, lawmakers met in a congressional hearing on Capitol Hill to discuss what has been called "a growing public health threat."

Posted: Feb 27, 2019 7:20 PM
Updated: Feb 27, 2019 7:20 PM

Amid a significant rise in measles cases across the United States, lawmakers met in a congressional hearing on Capitol Hill on Wednesday to discuss what has been called "a growing public health threat."

The House Committee on Energy and Commerce held the hearing, which included talks around response efforts for the current measles outbreak and where in the country vaccination rates of the recommended measles, mumps and rubella vaccine are found to be low.

"I do believe that parents' concerns about vaccines leads to undervaccination, and most of the cases that we're seeing are in unvaccinated communities," Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said during the hearing.

Nationally, the United States has high measles vaccination coverage.

"However, there are pockets of people who are vaccine-hesitant. ... Outbreaks of measles occur when measles gets into these communities of unvaccinated people," she said. "The only way to protect against measles is to get vaccinated."

America's climbing measles cases

There have been 159 cases of measles confirmed across 10 states this year: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, New York, Oregon, Texas and Washington, according to a report released by the CDC on Monday.

Lawmakers discussed concerns around the spread of medically inaccurate information online relating to the measles vaccine -- and whether addressing that misinformation might be a way to stop outbreaks before they start.

For instance, Facebook has announced plans "to reduce the distribution of health-related misinformation" on its social media platform, a representative for the company said this month.

Around the same time measles cases have been rising nationwide, anti-vaccination groups have been vocal on Facebook, sharing and posting information against the safety of vaccines.

"I'm really concerned about the misinformation, but I also understand how complicated it is for parents," Messonnier said.

Even though there has been a small but slowly growing number of young unvaccinated children in the United States, CDC research shows that most parents continue to have confidence in the safety and effectiveness of the measles vaccine, Messonnier said.

She added that parents should talk to their children's pediatricians if they have any concerns.

Messonnier also noted that a lack of adequate access to health care can be a barrier to getting vaccinations, as has been seen in some rural and low-income communities.

Anti-vaccination content often claims that vaccines are unsafe -- such as that they can cause autism -- even though research has debunked such claims and the CDC points to its vaccine safety system to ensure that vaccines are as safe as possible.

The CDC website notes that common side effects of the MMR vaccine include a sore arm from the shot, fever, mild rash, and temporary pain and stiffness in the joints. Serious side effects, including allergic reactions and febrile seizures, are rare.

Messonnier said patients should talk to their doctor about their or their child's personal risk for rare side effects.

At one point during the hearing, anti-vaccination activists in the audience could be heard objecting to testimonies by Messonnier and Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

One woman in the audience raised an anti-vaccination book in the air. Another rubbed her fingers together, making the hand gesture for money.

'The sad thing is, this is a completely solvable problem'

The CDC recommends that children get two doses of MMR vaccine: the first dose at 12 through 15 months of age and the second at 4 through 6 years of age.

"You have one of the most contagious viruses known to man juxtaposed against one of the most effective vaccines we have," Fauci said at the hearing.

He added that there are two reasons why following vaccine recommendations remain important: "One, it is for the safety of your own child, and the other is a responsibility for your own community. ... We all have a responsibility to be part of that umbrella of herd immunity."

Herd immunity refers to how a disease can be kept from easily spreading through a community based on the proportion of people in that community who are immune to the disease, such as through vaccination.

To achieve this for measles, the population immune needs to be 93% to 95%. "With measles, because it is so contagious, you have to have a herd immunity greater than 90%," said Dr. Robert Murphy, professor and director of the Center for Global Health at Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine, who was not involved in Wednesday's hearing.

"That means that only 7 out of 100 people really would be at risk for getting measles. If somebody had measles, the likelihood that they would run into one of those seven is pretty low," he said, adding that in some communities facing measles outbreaks, herd immunity has dropped well below 93%.

"It's amazing that we actually have to have congressional hearings with what's going on today," said Murphy, who has treated children and adults with measles. "The sad thing is, this is a completely solvable problem, because we have a safe and very effective vaccine."

Measles is a potentially deadly respiratory illness caused by the measles virus, and symptoms typically include high fever, cough, runny nose, watery eyes and a rash of flat red spots. The virus spreads through coughing and sneezing and can live in the air for up to two hours after an infected person coughs or sneezes.

Measles was declared eliminated in the United States in 2000, after a vaccination program. Elimination is defined by no continuous disease transmissions occurring for greater than 12 months.

Even though it has been declared eliminated in America, "measles continues to circulate globally, which means unvaccinated US travelers can be exposed to measles and bring it back home with them," Messonnier said at the hearing.

Measles remains a common disease in many areas around the world, including areas in Europe, Asia, the Pacific and Africa, according to the CDC.

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 41571

Reported Deaths: 1537
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hennepin13328790
Ramsey5169232
Dakota265596
Stearns249619
Anoka2393111
Nobles16846
Olmsted125920
Washington125541
Mower9822
Rice8798
Scott8584
Clay61238
Kandiyohi5901
Blue Earth5632
Wright5285
Carver4691
Todd4022
Sherburne3625
Lyon3332
Freeborn3120
Watonwan2670
Steele2451
Benton2363
St. Louis22316
Nicollet20312
Martin1755
Cottonwood1420
Winona14115
Goodhue1408
Le Sueur1251
Crow Wing11312
Pine1120
Otter Tail1111
Chisago1071
McLeod1000
Dodge960
Carlton900
Polk883
Unassigned8838
Isanti810
Chippewa801
Waseca770
Murray730
Itasca7112
Douglas700
Pipestone694
Morrison641
Becker620
Meeker621
Faribault610
Sibley582
Jackson570
Pennington530
Beltrami470
Brown442
Mille Lacs392
Wabasha380
Renville372
Fillmore350
Rock340
Swift331
Houston320
Yellow Medicine310
Grant250
Roseau250
Redwood230
Wilkin223
Koochiching211
Norman210
Cass192
Big Stone170
Kanabec171
Lincoln170
Wadena170
Aitkin150
Marshall130
Pope130
Clearwater120
Stevens110
Hubbard100
Mahnomen101
Lake60
Traverse60
Lac qui Parle50
Red Lake40
Kittson20
Cook10
Lake of the Woods00

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 34564

Reported Deaths: 747
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Polk7332184
Woodbury332944
Black Hawk249259
Buena Vista173711
Johnson14268
Dallas138531
Linn138183
Marshall109219
Scott103110
Dubuque94023
Story8575
Pottawattamie82112
Wapello71431
Muscatine68745
Crawford6803
Sioux5010
Tama48329
Wright3971
Louisa36513
Webster3655
Plymouth3465
Jasper34417
Warren3191
Dickinson2993
Cerro Gordo2841
Washington2519
Hamilton2011
Boone1681
Clay1491
Clarke1433
Allamakee1384
Clinton1321
Shelby1200
Mahaska11917
Carroll1131
Poweshiek1128
Bremer1107
Pocahontas1071
Franklin1040
Des Moines1002
Cedar951
Emmet950
Henry933
Hardin900
Cherokee831
Floyd812
Taylor810
Marion800
Monona780
Benton751
Guthrie754
Jones710
Butler682
Osceola680
Sac680
Buchanan631
Calhoun632
Iowa631
Jefferson620
Hancock601
Harrison600
Humboldt601
Fayette570
Jackson570
Lyon570
Delaware561
Madison552
Lee542
Monroe527
Palo Alto510
Clayton503
Grundy470
Mills470
Winneshiek460
Mitchell440
Davis421
Kossuth410
Union380
Howard370
Lucas354
Unassigned350
Winnebago340
Greene300
Chickasaw290
Cass280
Ida230
Keokuk231
Worth220
Appanoose213
Page210
Van Buren210
Audubon181
Adair170
Ringgold161
Decatur130
Montgomery122
Wayne110
Fremont100
Adams80
Rochester
Clear
71° wxIcon
Hi: 80° Lo: 58°
Feels Like: 71°
Mason City
Clear
70° wxIcon
Hi: 82° Lo: 59°
Feels Like: 70°
Albert Lea
Clear
70° wxIcon
Hi: 80° Lo: 59°
Feels Like: 70°
Austin
Clear
70° wxIcon
Hi: 81° Lo: 59°
Feels Like: 70°
Charles City
Clear
70° wxIcon
Hi: 82° Lo: 60°
Feels Like: 70°
Chance for more storms Monday
KIMT Radar
KIMT Eye in the sky

Latest Video

Image

Autumn Ridge Church sees online viewership grow

Image

Sean's Sunday Weather

Image

Dave Main 10p Wx

Image

Virtual campaigning during pandemic

Image

Former NIACC coach Travis Hergert back in big league camp with the Phillies

Image

New ICE guidelines causing concern for international students

Image

Dave Main 6p Weather 7/11

Image

Connecting with a loved one with dementia during the pandemic

Image

Bruins set to host all-star game

Image

COVID-19 Cases Expected to Spike in North Iowa

Community Events