Measles rising.

The aptly named PLoS blog “The Panic Virus” brings together a few disturbing strands of information about the anti-vaccination movement and the growing threat of measles:

* There have been 118 reported measles cases in the first nineteen weeks of the year — which is the highest number of infections for that period since 1996. That’s particularly noteworthy because, as the CDC points out, “as a result of high vaccination coverage, measles elimination (i.e., the absence of endemic transmission) was achieved in the United States in the late 1990s and likely in the rest of the Americas since the early 2000s.”

Anyone curious about how quickly a series of small measles conflagrations can spread horribly out of control should check out the situation currently unfolding in France, which is in the third year of a nation-wide outbreak.^ In 2007, the number of reported cases in France was around forty. The next year, they jumped to six hundred…and they’ve been rising ever since. So far in 2011, there have been more than 6,400 infections in the country. Translated to a population the size of the US’s, that would represent a jump from 188 cases to more than 28,000.

The toll that would take on the nation’s health-care infrastructure is mind-boggling. Consider this: In 2008, a deliberately unvaccinated patient of “Dr. Bob” Sears caught measles while on vacation in Switzerland. That single infection ultimately resulted in a total of 12 cases…and the total cost of containing the outbreak topped $150,000.

In other words, it’s coming back and we’re all going to pay for it.