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An Australian Tourist May Have Spread Measles Across New York City

The New York state Department of Health is telling residents in the area to be on the lookout for measles symptoms after an Australian tourist with a confirmed case visited several hotels and tourist destinations from Feb. 16 to 21, The Washington Post reported.

State health officials provided the tourist’s travel route on Friday to help track the virus. The Australian stayed at a La Quinta Inn on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, a Best Western Hotel in Brooklyn, a Comfort Inn & Suites, urgent care and emergency clinics upstate, near Goshen and Middletown.

The tourist also visited the Metropolitan Museum of Art in Manhattan and the Watchtower Educational Center in Patterson, New York.

Take Action: Vaccines Should Be Accessible and Affordable For All

Measles is a highly contagious disease. There is a 90% infection rate for non-immunized people who come into contact with someone infected by measles, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

This case is particularly worrisome because of the highly populated areas that were visited by the Australian. The Met, for instance, had 7 million visitors in fiscal 2017, according to The Washington Post.

Measles can also survive for up to two hours in the open air, according to the CDC.

Read More: This Australian MP With an Autistic Child Just Launched a Great Defense of Vaccines

Measles is preventable thanks to its vaccine. The vaccine’s effectiveness is over 90%, according to the CDC.

Still, efforts to eliminate this disease have been stalled in large part due to anti-vaxxer efforts.

The anti-vaxxer movement perpetuates ideas that go against scientific evidence, which scares parents and encourages them not to vaccinate their children.

Read More: New Study Reveals Immunization Could Put an End To Poverty

“If vaccination rates fall it is relatively easy for infectious diseases to re-establish themselves, especially the highly contagious ones like measles and diphtheria,” Sarah Loving, vaccine knowledge project manager, Oxford Vaccine Group, told the Independent.

The anti-vaccine movement took off when doctor Andrew Wakefield published a paper linking vaccines to autism. Studies that followed found no link between them, but the unfounded concern just won’t go away.

The UK experienced a measles outbreak in 2012 and 2013 caused by a drop in MMR vaccination rates in the early 2000s, Loving said.

Read More: How Fake News Could Lead To A Global Epidemic

In fact, the number of vaccinated children in the UK are dropping every year. In 2013-14, vaccination rates had reached 94.3% — in 2015-16, it was down to 91.9%.

Measles cases quadrupled in Europe in 2017, according to The New York Times. The disease spread to the UK, just months after it was reported eliminated.

Measles outbreaks have been also been reported across Canada and in the United States in recent years, as were cases of mumps and whooping cough.

Read More: Measles Outbreak Sweeps Across UK, Public Health England Warns

If the anti-vaccine trend continues, 2018 and beyond could see a resurgence of deadly diseases close to eradication, according to Wired.

That’s why Global Citizen campaigns on issues related to global health security. You can take action here.

Despite setbacks, global eradication efforts have led to a huge decrease in the number of deaths related to measles. Measles killed 2.6 million a year in the 1980s and less than 100,000 in 2016, according to The New York Times.

Measles is a respiratory disease caused by a virus through the nose and throat — it can be spread through coughing and sneezing. Be on the lookout for a fever, cough, runny nose and watery eyes, the symptoms will be followed by a rash, according to the New York State Department of Health.