August 23, 2008

Officials Worried By Rise in Outbreaks

ATLANTA - The number of measles cases in the U.S. is at its highest level since 1997, and nearly half of those involve children whose parents rejected vaccination, government health officials reported Thursday.

The number of cases is still small, just 131, but that's just for the first seven months of the year, and doctors are troubled by the trend. There were only 42 cases for all of last year. None of the 131 patients died, but 15 were hospitalized.

Measles, best known for a red skin rash, is a potentially deadly, highly infectious virus that spreads through contact with a sneezing, coughing, infected person.

It is no longer endemic to the United States, but every year some Americans pick it up while traveling abroad and bring it home.

In a typical year, only one outbreak occurs in the United States. So far this year through July there have been seven outbreaks, health officials said. Childhood vaccination rates for measles continue to exceed 92 percent, but outbreak pockets seem to be forming.

Originally published by Associated Press.

(c) 2008 Augusta Chronicle, The. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All rights Reserved.