The tide of measles stories is growing stronger—and more dismal: The CDC yesterday revealed that some 288 cases have been recorded across 18 states in the first five months of this year, making 2014's outbreak the biggest in 20 years. Things are worst in Ohio, with the CDC logging 138 cases there; California has seen 60 and New York 26, the Washington Post reports. But another non-US location is a big factor in the story: the Philippines. Some 97% of the cases are related to foreign travel by people who haven't been vaccinated, and about half visited the Philippines, where 32,000 people have been infected since January.
To wit, the Ohio outbreak started with two members of the Amish community who contracted the highly contagious disease on a humanitarian aid trip to the Philippines in March then infected others at home. "This scenario is the one that I've had the most nightmares about," an Ohio health commissioner tells the Wall Street Journal, adding some Amish communities are refusing immunization. Officials across the country are now trying to make it more difficult for parents to exempt kids from vaccinations, and free clinics have been set up, but some still avoid the needle. "This is not an insignificant illness," warns a medical director. "This is an illness that is well worth avoiding." (The US eliminated measles in 2000, but that never meant we were measles-free.)