Is another epidemic coming?

Is another infectious disease about to run rampant in California?

A year ago the state Department of Public Health had reported 3 cases of measles; this year 32.  Los Angeles Orange and Riverside counties are home to 21 of the 32 cases.

The virus-caused disease is more than an unseemly rash, though that is its most visible symptom. Complications can include pneumonia, even death.

If all this sounds familiar, it is.

Four years ago the state was ravaged by another infectious disease -- pertussis, popularly called whooping cough. More than 7,800 cases were reported in 2010, more than in any year since 1947, when California recorded more than 9,000 cases.

California is not alone in trying to cope with potential measles outbreaks. New York City health officials recently confirmed 19 cases, and in British Columbia authorities say there may be more than 100 cases in one suburban community.

The warnings were here.

In 2013, the Centers for Disease Control reported that 189 people in the U.S. contracted the disease, more than three times the normal number. And beyond our borders, it’s even more prevalent. The World Health Organization reports that in 2013 measles was “widespread” in Europe, with 31,617 cases in 36 countries.

All this despite the fact that early this century the battle with measles was declared won in the United States.  But the ease of global travel – by viruses as well as people – has changed the health infectious disease landscape.

The point is that supposedly eradicated diseases in one place are still rampant in another.  Given global mobility, no nation, much less a globally-oriented state like California, dares lower its vigilance.

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Richard Kipling

Richard Kipling is executive director of the Center. He led the pilot project that resulted in the Center’s founding in 2009. During a 35-year journalism career, Kipling has held various newsroom management positions at the San Diego Union and at the Los Angeles Times, where he was city editor of the San Diego County Edition and editor of the Times Orange County Edition. For several years, Kipling was director of the Tribune Company’s Minority Editorial Training Program (METPro), where he recruited, trained and placed at daily newspapers almost 200 minority journalists. He has taught journalism at USC, Occidental College and Caltech. Kipling holds Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Political Science from UC Santa Barbara and pursued a PhD degree in Government at the Claremont Graduate School.

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