measles resurgence
May 31, 2014

CDC: Number Of Measles Cases In The US Reaches 20-Year High

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online

Measles cases in the US have reached a 20-year high, with over 250 confirmed cases having been reported during the first five months of 2014, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced on Thursday.

From January 1 through May 23 of this year, a total of 288 cases of measles had been reported to American health officials – the highest levels since 1994 – and according to The Washington Times, one out of every seven patients has required hospitalization.

“The current increase in measles cases is being driven by unvaccinated people, primarily US residents, who got measles in other countries, brought the virus back to the United States and spread to others in communities where many people are not vaccinated,” said Dr. Anne Schuchat, Director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunizations and Respiratory Diseases.

“Many of the clusters in the US began following travel to the Philippines where a large outbreak has been occurring since October 2013,” she added. “Many U.S. health care providers have never seen or treated a patient with measles because of the nation’s robust vaccination efforts and our rapid response to outbreaks.”

The CDC reported that 280 of the 288 cases, or 97 percent, had been imported from at least 18 different countries. Ninety percent were in individuals who had not been vaccinated, 85 percent of whom were for religious, philosophical or personal reasons, or in men and women whose vaccination status was unknown.

According to The Wall Street Journal’s Karishma Mehrotra, the highly contagious disease was officially declared eliminated in the US in 2000, but is now in the midst of “a troubling resurgence.” Measles has remained a force internationally, with an estimated 20 million people contracting measles and 122,000 dying as a result of the condition annually.

“The largest cluster of cases is in Ohio, sparked by two unvaccinated members of an Amish community who contracted the disease on a humanitarian aid trip to the Philippines in March and then spread it to others at home,” Mehrota said. Ohio state health officials said that they had received 164 cases as of Thursday, and all of the affected counties had established free vaccination clinics that had immunized over 8,000 people since Tuesday.

The second hardest-hit state was California, which had reported 60 total cases – one-third of which occurred in unvaccinated children, the state health department told the Wall Street Journal. As many as 20 percent of school-age children in some counties are exempted from vaccination requirements for reasons of personal belief.

The CDC is advising people who have symptoms such as fever and rash along with cough, runny nose, and/or pink eye to be evaluated for measles – especially if those individuals have not been vaccinated against the condition, have recently traveled overseas, or had been exposed to someone who has measles or had traveled recently. They also advise that patients suspected of having measles should be isolated to present the spread of the disease.

“Timely vaccination is the best way to prevent measles. Infants and young children are at high risk of getting a serious case of measles,” the agency added. “CDC recommends two doses of measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine for everyone starting at age 12 months. For those travelling internationally, CDC recommends that all U.S. residents older than 6 months receive MMR vaccine, if needed, prior to departure.”