(NYTIMES) — PHILADELPHIA — MEASLES is back. Last year, about 650 cases were reported in the United States — the largest outbreak in almost 20 years. This year, more than a hundred have already been reported.
Parents have chosen not to vaccinate their children because they can; 19 states have philosophical exemptions to vaccination, and 47 have religious exemptions. The other reason is that parents are not scared of the disease. But I’m scared. I lived through the 1991 Philadelphia measles epidemic.
Between October 1990 and June 1991, more than 1,400 people living in Philadelphia were infected with measles, and nine children died. The epidemic started when, after returning from a trip to Spain, a teenager with a blotchy rash attended a rock concert at the Spectrum. By Nov. 29, 96 schoolchildren had been stricken with the illness; a week later, it was 124; by the end of December, the number had risen to 258, and the first child had died. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention sent a team to determine whether the strain of measles was particularly virulent. It wasn’t. Investigators found that the deaths had nothing to do with the strain that was circulating and everything to do with the parents.
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