May 5, 2011

US On Track To Set Record Year For Measles

According to an Associated Press report, the US is on track to have more measles cases than any year in over a decade.

There have already been about 89 cases reported so far, and the US only sees an average of 50 cases of measles each year.

"It's hard to say, but we're certainly getting a lot," Dr. Greg Wallace, who leads the measles, mumps, rubella and polio team at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told AP.

International health officials are blaming the rise in Europe and other areas of the world on the failure to vaccinate all children.

Officials posted an alert urging travelers everywhere to get the recommended two doses of vaccine before flying overseas.

"The risk of getting infection is very high," Dr. Cuauhtemoc Ruiz Matus, an immunization expert with the Pan American Health Organization, told AP's Mike Stobbe.

Experts say measles is highly contagious and up to 90 percent of people exposed to an infected person get sick.

"Measles is really the most contagious of the vaccine-preventable diseases. It has a knack for finding those who have not been vaccinated," Wallace told AP.

The disease includes symptoms like a fever, runny nose, cough, eye inflammation and rashes all over the body.  A small percentage of people develop pneumonia or even encephalitis. 

There have been no measles-related deaths reported in the US since 2003.  Nearly all children got measles by their 15th birthday before the vaccine was invited 50 years ago.

According to studies, about 90 percent of US kids are protected from measles now.

Health officials said children as young as six months old can get a first dose of the vaccine if they are going to a country where they are at high risk of exposure.

"Unfortunately, that's not always done. Parents often don't report to their physician that they are taking their child on an international trip," Dr. Harry Keyserling, a pediatric infectious diseases specialist at the Emory University School of Medicine, told AP.

Wallace said that of the 89 cases reported this year, 79 people were unvaccinated or had no documentation of it.


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