October 14, 2010

Most U.S. Measles Cases Are In Unvaccinated Children

Two out of every three American children who have been infected with measles recently did not receive a vaccination against the illness, claims a report in The Journal of Infectious Diseases.

According to Reuters Health, who published a Wednesday article discussing the study, Dr. Amy Parker Fiebelkorn and her colleagues took a look at measles-related data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) between 2001 and 2008.

They discovered that 65-percent of the cases in the U.S. occurred in unvaccinated subjects. Infections among Americans were most common among children under the age of 15, and there were a total of 557 confirmed cases of the illness worldwide during the period studied. Prior to the introduction of the vaccine, Reuters says that as many as 4 million people caught measles annually.

On their official website, the CDC says that the measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine, also known as the MMR vaccine, "is a combination vaccine that was licensed in 1971 to protect against measles, mumps, and rubella. These diseases are serious and can be potentially deadly. Each year in the United States, nearly 10 million doses of the vaccine are distributed. CDC continues to recommend two doses of MMR vaccine for all children: dose 1 at ages 12-15 months, and dose 2 at ages 4-6 years."

However, some have questioned the safety of the MMR vaccine, specifically in regards to an alleged link between the vaccine and the development of autism in children. The link was initially discussed in a 1998 paper published in the UK journal The Lancet.

It was later discovered that the article's lead author, Andrew Wakefield, had manipulated evidence and violated ethical codes. The paper was retracted and Wakefield was found guilty of misconduct by the General Medical Council. Regardless, at least in the eyes of some members of the general public, concern about the possible link remains, despite a lack of scientific evidence to support the notion.


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