Are any of the diseases becoming more common?

Short Answer

Yes. Because of lower vaccination rates and more accessible worldwide travel, some vaccine-preventable diseases are making a comeback. In other countries where the health-care system is not as developed, some vaccine-preventable diseases that are not common in the United States are still prevalent and pose a threat to Americans through travel and immigration.


By and large, whooping cough, also known as pertussis, has topped the list of vaccine-preventable diseases on the rise in recent years. Outbreaks have popped up in Maine, Vermont, and Washington in the last two years. Each of these states has a higher-than-average percentage of parents who opt out of vaccinations for their children. Mumps has also made a resurgence, infecting students at a California university. Measles cases are among the highest they have been in 15 years, and continue to infect children in the United States, even though the disease has not been endemic to the U.S. since 2000. As of August 24, 2012, there had been 222 reported measles cases in the U.S. that year, nearly triple the normal number. In 2011, thousands were exposed to the disease at the Super Bowl when two teenagers infected with the disease visited the Super Bowl Village in Indianapolis. Neither teen had been vaccinated. The last death in the U.S. as a result of measles occurred in 2008.

Internationally, vaccine-preventable diseases remain a common problem. An outbreak of cholera recently struck Sierra Leone and Guinea in Africa, and Haiti also saw outbreaks of cholera following the major earthquake that shook the country in 2010. Even though vaccination rates are improving, India and countries in Africa are constantly dealing with measles outbreaks. In 2010, India alone accounted for 47% of deaths related to measles. Even countries in Europe are struggling to control the disease as vaccination rates decrease. A major outbreak in 2011 resulted in several thousand cases across France, Spain, Germany, and Switzerland.

Polio, a disease eradicated in most of the Western world, is on the rise in Afghanistan after years of decline. In Pakistan, efforts to eradicate the disease have been hampered by the Taliban. Conversely, after years of nationwide vaccination efforts, India has recorded its first year (2011) without any reports of new wild polio cases after being the world’s main hub of polio.