In some rich countries of the world, measles is making a comeback.
The United States, which had almost eradicated the contagious virus in the early 2000s, has recorded 159 cases so far in 2019. In Japan, the measles virus has already been diagnosed in 167 people over the past six years. first weeks of this year – the highest measles infection rate for the Japanese in more than a decade.
Public health officials have been warning for months that this is the consequence if people choose not to vaccinate their children. The World Health Organization (WHO) says that "vaccine hesitancy" is one of the biggest threats to the world's health at the moment current. In the United States, some pediatricians have also voiced concerns that the relaxation of regulation in many states creates fertile ground for all kinds of preventable infections, including measles.
When asked about his views on the situation, Bill Gates added his own voice to the growing alarm against anti-vaxxer parents at a Reddit AMA on Monday.
"It's amazing how, in the richest countries, the consensus that children should be protected has been lost," Gates said Monday. "Unfortunately, this will result in deaths from measles or whooping cough."
Prior to the invention of the measles vaccine in 1963, the infectious virus was an ubiquitous childhood disease. The deadly complications of measles have affected about one in 1,000 people who have been infected with measles, and more than 400 people have died from measles each year in the United States. The country has not seen a fatal case of measles since 2015, however, when a woman with a compromised immune system has died of pneumonia resulting from measles complications.
Nevertheless, a growing number of people are relying on the science of junk food and other false information to confirm their belief that vaccines are dangerous.
"Vaccines have saved more lives than any other tool," said Gates.
Public health experts around the world are saying the same thing.
"We risk losing decades of progress in protecting children and communities from this devastating but totally preventable disease," said Soumya Swaminathan, deputy director general of the WHO, in a recent statement.
Since the beginning of the year, many cases of measles in the United States have been reported in the Pacific Northwest, where at least 57 unvaccinated people have contracted the disease.
"People become complacent because they do not realize how bad it can be," Clark Public Health Director Alan Melnick recently told Business Insider. "And that's what scares me the most."