Utter freaking misery
Image: Wellcome Collection

Once a dangerous staple of childhood, measles has been practically eliminated in the United States, thanks to decades of widespread vaccination. It’s an incredible achievement! But an ongoing outbreak in Europe demonstrates how easily it could unravel if anti-vaxx sentiment continues to undermine vaccination rates.

According to the WHO, there’s been 41,000 cases of measles and 40 resulting deaths in Europe this year. NBC News reported on the surge, and explained:

The reason, experts say, is that in Europe, many parents have opted to skip vaccinating their children. “It’s the main factor leading to the outbreaks,” said Anca Paduraru of the European Commission in Brussels. “It’s unacceptable to have in the 21st century diseases that should have been and could have been eradicated.”

At least 95 percent of the population must have received at least two doses of measles vaccine to prevent outbreaks, WHO said. Some parts of Europe are below 70 percent.

The story also includes lots of details about just how damn miserable the disease actually is—we’re not talking poison ivy, here. “People don’t see them and so they forget about them or they think the diseases don’t exist anymore,” UCLA professor of public health Dr. Jeffrey D. Klausner told NBC. “They don’t realize their child is at risk for measles meningitis, encephalitis and permanent brain damage.”

“People are dying from measles. This was unbelievable five or 10 years ago,” said Dr. Alberto Villani, president of the Italian Pediatric Society.

Don’t listen to celebrities, don’t listen to Facebook memes, and definitely don’t listen to the most annoying member of your high school graduating class.