KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — Measles was declared eliminated nationwide in 2000, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, but that declaration may have led to the current outbreak.
“Everyone since then has thought that measles has gone away and it will never come back. As a result of that, the immunization rates have gone down. So, now measles is coming back again,” said Richard Van Enk, director of Infection Prevention and Epidemiology at Bronson Methodist Hospital in Kalamazoo.
Van Enk told 24 Hour News 8 that there are enough people who haven’t been immunized to support an outbreak.
Measles is one of the most contagious common infectious diseases, he said. Anyone actively infected with the measles can leave trails of the viral infection on surfaces they encounter.
The symptoms are wide-ranging and so are the complications that can result from the disease.
“One out of 1,000 people who gets measles dies. It’s not just a cold,” Van Enk told 24 Hour News 8 Thursday evening.
“There’s no treatment for measles,” he added. “You either survive or you don’t survive.”
While viral infections like the flu can cause other complications leading to death, health officials say an outbreak of this disease is different.
“People that die of measles generally die of measles alone,” Van Enk said.
He said that there are usually about 100 reports of measles cases in the U.S. each year, but right now there are more than 500 confirmed cases across the country. Dozens of those cases are in southeast Michigan.
Van Enk explained that in order to get ahead of this current outbreak, everyone who can get vaccinated should get vaccinated.
“There’s always a few people in the population that can’t get immunized because of some other disease that they have,” he said. “Getting a vaccine protects people other than the person who takes it.”
Health officials warn that there was a bad batch of vaccines administered nationwide between 1963 and 1968. Van Enk told 24 Hour News 8 that the people who possibly received that failed immunization are likely between the ages of 51-62 and may not know they are not immune.
When in doubt, it’s recommended to talk to a physician about receiving a booster.