Measles Outbreak Concerns US Health Officials
September 15, 2013

Number Of US Measles Cases Has Health Officials Concerned

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online

With over three months remaining in the year, US health officials report that 2013 is already one of the worst years for measles in more than a decade – and the unusually high number of cases has them concerned.

According to the Associated Press (AP), the average number of measles cases amongst Americans each year is about 60. This year, however, 159 cases have been reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

“Most young children are vaccinated against measles. But outbreaks still occur, usually when travelers pick up the measles virus abroad and then spread it among unvaccinated people here,” the AP said. “Nearly all of this year's cases have been traced to travelers.”

Regardless of the source, the abnormally high number of measles cases being observed has federal health officials worried, according to NPR reporter Rob Stein. While there have been no deaths reported this year so far, 17 people have been hospitalized, the disease is considered to be highly contagious, and the reported infection rate for this year is the second-highest since 2000 – only 222 cases reported in 2011 is higher.

“Measles cases in the United States numbered in the hundreds of thousands before the advent of vaccination, and dropped dramatically throughout the 1960s,” explained CNN Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen. “The disease was thought to have been eradicated in 2000, but the numbers have recently crept back up, largely because of visitors from countries where measles is common and because of vaccine objectors within the United States.”

In fact, Cohen reports that nearly two-thirds of the cases were part of three outbreaks that occurred in communities where many children do not receive vaccinations due to “religious or philosophical reasons.” As many as three out of every 1,000 children who contract measles will die from the disease, despite the quality of care, and 40 percent of those under the age of five require hospitalization, the CDC told CNN.

“The increase in measles cases in the United States in 2013 serves as a reminder that imported measles can result in larger outbreaks, particularly if introduced into areas with pockets of unvaccinated persons,” officials from the health agency wrote, specifically referencing an ongoing outbreak in Texas occurring among members of a religious sect opposed to vaccinations, according to Eryn Brown of the Los Angeles Times.

The number of children in the US who have not received measles vaccinations represent less than one percent of the entire population, Brown said. In many cases, the immunization rates among children living in families who were below the federal poverty level were lower than those living at or above the poverty level.

At the state level, the lowest rate for the combined vaccination series was in Alaska (59.5 percent); the highest was in Hawaii (80.2 percent), the Times reporter added. According to the CDC, symptoms of measles include fever, runny nose, cough and a rash all over the body. Approximately 10 percent of infected children will also get an ear infection, while one-in-20 will come down with pneumonia and approximately one-in-1,000 will contract encephalitis.