A number of old illnesses are becoming more common. This is why.
Scarlet fever, measles, and tuberculosis?! There are a lot of people who are afraid about the news stories about old diseases coming back. To stay safe during spreads, read this.
Mumps used to be popular in kids and young people, but since a vaccine came out in 1967, cases have dropped by 99% in the US. But things do happen, especially in places where people know each other well.1 There were 322 cases of mumps in the United States in 2022.
People who live close to each other (like in college dorms or changing rooms) can catch mumps by coughing, sneezing, talking, or sharing cups or eating tools.
These signs and symptoms usually show up 16 to 18 days after getting mumps:
- Cheek puffiness
- Jaw pain and swelling
- High temperature
- Aches in muscles
- Being tired
- Loss of hunger
There is no cure, but most people get better in a few weeks. Hearing loss, meningitis, and disease of the testicles or ovaries are some of the rare problems that can happen.5
Besides staying away from people who have mumps, the only way to avoid getting it is to get the MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella) vaccine. The vaccine is usually given to children, but anyone can get it at any time. If someone gets two doses of the vaccine, their risk of getting mumps drops by 88%. If they only get one dose, their risk drops by 78%. During cases, people are often told to take extra doses.
It used to be easy to get measles and mumps together. At one point, almost every American kid got the disease before they turned 15. Every year, 400 to 500 Americans die from it. The disease was finally gone from the U.S. in 2000, though, after a lot of people got the vaccine in the 1960s.
The measles has unfortunately come back. Only 121 people got measles in 2022, but 1,274 people got it in 2019.
People with measles can affect others by coughing and breathing. This virus is so common that 90% of people who are not immune will get it from being near someone who has it.
“It spreads like a gas through the air,” Dr. Phillips said, calling it “the ultimate infection that can be spread.”
These are some signs of measles:
- A fever
- Nose that runs
- Eyes red
- Rash that looks like it started at the head and went down the body
Some problems that can happen are diarrhea, ear infections, and very rarely, asthma and meningitis, which can be life-threatening.
It has been almost 20 years since the United States was declared measles-free. In other words, disease is no longer always present in this country. Measles is still coming into the US, though, from visitors. It can sometimes spread and cause cases among people who haven’t been vaccine.11 Because of this and the fact that there is no cure for measles, everyone needs to get vaccinated.
The MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella) vaccine needs to be given to children twice. Teenagers and adults who haven’t shown any signs of protection need at least one dose. People in high-risk groups, like foreign tourists, healthcare workers, and college students, need two doses.
About 97% of people who get two doses of the vaccine don’t get the disease, and 93% of people who get one dose don’t get the disease. It’s especially important to get vaccines before going on a trip abroad and to stick to the plan for tourists.
Dr. Phillips said, “Prevention is the key.” “If we develop pockets of under-vaccinated people and start having enough transmission, even those individuals who are vaccinated will be at risk.”
TB is a disease
There were seven people killed by tuberculosis (TB) every day in the US and Europe before the germs Mycobacterium tuberculosis was found in 1882.
CDC. World TB Day’s history.
Because of antibiotics, it is much less common now, especially in the U.S. The World Health Organization (WHO) started a new global plan in 2014 called “End TB.” Its goal is to get rid of tuberculosis completely by 2035, which means that there will be less than one case per million people.
There it is, though. TB is the second most common viral killer in the world. There were 1.6 million deaths from TB in 2021.
TB is making a comeback, even though most Americans don’t see it as a danger. In 2021, there were 7,882 known cases in the US.
If Mycobacterium tuberculosis gets into the lungs, it can lead to TB. When someone who has it coughs, sneezes, or talks, it’s spread through the air. However, it can’t be caught by shaking hands, kissing, or sharing food, drink, or toothbrushes.18 People whose immune systems aren’t working well are especially at risk.
These are some signs of TB:
- A cough that lasts at least three weeks and often makes blood come out
- Get tired
- Night sweats are when you sweat a lot while you sleep.
- Pain in the chest
- Fever and chills
- Losing weight
- Loss of hunger
“Many cases we’re seeing involve folks who were infected years before, were asymptomatic, and then the disease reactivates later in life,” stated Dr. Phillips.
TB can be cured, which is good news. However, you may need to take a number of different medicines for three to twelve months. Stay safe by staying away from people who have tuberculosis, especially in busy, closed-off places. See your doctor right away if you think you may have been exposed to someone with tuberculosis (TB). You may need to be tested and treated.
TB is scary enough on its own, but doctors are very worried about the spread of TB that is not easily treated with antibiotics around the world.
“We’re seeing more and more cases that are multi-drug-resistant, which means it requires a second or a third line therapy to treat,” stated Dr. Phillips. “We have to think globally about this one: helping to prevent cases overseas and working on new drug development can only help keep us safe domestically.”
The Scarlet Fever
Antibiotics have made this bacterial illness mostly forgotten over the past 100 years. It may be best known for its part in the famous children’s book “The Velveteen Rabbit.” (The young main character’s doctor tells him that when he gets scarlet fever, all of his toys, including his favorite rabbit, must be thrown away.)
But in 2020, a study said that scarlet fever was becoming more common around the world. It had been almost completely eradicated by the 1940s. Researchers said that powerful “clones” of the bacteria Streptococcus pyogenes were to blame for the rise in scarlet fever cases around the world, which was more than five times what it was before.
More cases of scarlet fever were reported in France, Ireland, the Netherlands, Sweden, and the UK of Great Britain and Northern Ireland in 2022. Most of these cases were in children younger than 10 years old.
People who get scarlet fever usually start out with strep throat and then get a rash. This is because both are caused by the same type of bacteria, Streptococcus. Children ages 5 to 12 are most likely to get scarlet fever.
Some common signs of scarlet fever are:
- High temperature
- A sore throat
- A red, rough rash that can show up on the chest and neck or the chest, underarms, and thighs. The rash may spread to other parts of the body.
A throat test or throat culture can be used to confirm that someone has scarlet fever, and medicines are a good way to treat it.
To stay safe, stay away from people who are sick (the disease is spread by coughs and sneezes), wash your hands often (as you would for any other disease), and get medical help as soon as you start to feel sick.
“It’s easily transmitted in group settings,” explained Dr. Phillips, “so there is the risk that when a toxigenic strain moves into a community, it would spread rapidly.”
A Quick Look Back
Measles, mumps, TB, and scarlet fever: You might think that these are rare diseases from the past that were wiped out by medicines and drugs. The truth is that these diseases are still spreading around the world, and some of them have come back in the U.S. Follow the safety tips in this article to stay healthy and safe.