While all eyes were on Trump’s former adviser Michael Cohen’s startling testimony against the president in Washington, a less glamorous – but much more serious – debate was being held elsewhere in America’s corridors of power.
In the US, hotspots of measles outbreaks have sprung up in 10 states, concentrated in areas targeted by active anti-vaccination campaigns. The highly contagious respiratory disease, which causes high fever, cough, runny nose, watery eyes and itchy red rashes, was declared eliminated in the United States in 2000. But by February the “significant” rise in cases was declared “a growing public health threat”.
It comes as news that cases of measles, which had been declining steadily until 2016, increased globally last year by 50 per cent – and tripled in Europe – leading the World Health Organisation (WHO) to declare it a global health threat. And the WHO has branded so-called ‘anti-vax’ disinformation a key cause of the resurgence of the disease.
Damaging disinformation is being spread from sources close to the White House: the wife of Trump’s communications director Bill Shine prominently tweets anti-vax propaganda, claiming – with zero basis in fact – that childhood diseases such as measles, mumps and chickenpox “keep you healthy and fight cancer”.
Darla Shine has used a hashtag calling on people to bring back #ChildhoodDiseases. Meanwhile, Republican politician Bill Zedler, who has been campaigning against the vaccination of children in Texas, has falsely claimed that measles could be treated with antibiotics, saying: “When I grew up, I had a lot of these illnesses. They wanted me to stay at home. But as far as being sick in bed, it wasn’t anything like that. They want to say people are dying of measles. Yeah, in third world countries they’re dying of measles. Today, with antibiotics and that kind of stuff, they’re not dying in America.”
Healthy young child goes to doctor, gets pumped with massive shot of many vaccines, doesn't feel good and changes – AUTISM. Many such cases!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 28, 2014