It’s crazy the difference a decade can make. In the early 2000s, it was thought that measles had been eradicated from the United States — after all, the vaccination was widespread, and standard preventative care given to children nationwide. The few cases of measles left were isolated incidences: small groups of infection spread from international travelers with the disease.
But on Thursday, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released new data showing that 2013 is likely to be the worst year for measles since 1996. Through Aug. 24, there have been 159 cases of measles in the country; in 1996 there were about 500 reported cases.
Both these numbers pale in comparison to what it was like before the vaccine became standard care; according to the CDC, in the 1950s, there were hundreds of thousands — in some years closing in on a million — cases annually. Nevertheless, the rising rate of measles is certainly alarming.