Campaigners who refuse to vaccinate children in the mistaken belief that vaccines are linked to autism are causing disease outbreaks, a study has shown.
The number of measles outbreaks in America is increasing – and so-called ‘anti-vaxxers’ may be behind the rise.
Researchers analysed 1,789 cases of measles in America between 2001 and 2015 – and found that 70% of those who contracted the illness were unvaccinated.
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‘Anti-vaxxers’ refuse to immunise children, in the (mistaken) belief that vaccines cause conditions such as autism.
Measles is a highly infectious viral illness with a higher risk of serious complications for pregnant women, young children and those who are immuno-suppressed.
The number of measles cases has grown from 0.28 cases per million people in 2001 to 0.56 cases per million in 2015, the researchers say.
Vaccinated people can catch measles, but vaccination dramatically lowers the risk, the researchers say.
The researchers write, ‘The high proportion of unvaccinated cases, and the decline in the proportion of vaccinated cases despite rate increases suggest that failure to vaccinate, rather than failure of vaccine performance, may be the main driver of measles transmission, emphasizing the importance of maintaining high vaccine coverage.’
Measles commonly causes a fever, runny nose, cough, red eyes, sore throat and a distinctive rash.
The virus responsible for the infection is usually cleared from the body within 14 days.
But in rare cases it spreads to the brain, where it can lie dormant for years – sometimes decades.