Growing up in Peoria, Ill., in the 1950s, Lance Rodewald caught ‘measles and mumps and probably German measles,’ and though he doesn’t remember suffering through any of them, his wife, Patricia, assures him they were all ‘absolutely miserable’ experiences. She knows because she had them, too. Infectious diseases were a midcentury rite of passage. But as Rodewald grew up, he watched those childhood terrors retreat. Doctors started vaccinating widely in the ’60s and ’70s, and by the time he was old enough to have kids of his own, it seemed the only common illness left for American parents to worry about was chickenpox. Scientists developed a vaccine for that as well. But even after his kids made it safely to adolescence, Rodewald, 52, didn’t assume that the era of infectious disease in kids in the United States was over. As a pediatrician and director of the Centers for Disease Control’s National Immunization Program, he had looked at the data-and seen that ‘all these diseases are just a plane ride away.’ Or, in the case of the mumps, which is now tearing through the heartland for the first time in decades, nine plane rides away. That’s how many connecting […]

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