15-Year High in Measles Cases Reported

As reported in a Time article, so far this year (January-May, 2011), 118 cases of measles have been reported in the United States. This number is the highest measles count since 1996 and nearly twice the median number of cases for years 2001 to 2008. Cases were reported in 23 states and ages ranged from 3 months to 68 years. 40% of the cases required hospitalizations, 9 cases contracted pneumonia, and no deaths were reported.

Routine vaccinations eliminated measles in the U.S. in the 1990s but cases of the highly contagious viral disease are still reported annually, imported from countries where the disease is still endemic. Of the 118 cases, 89% were associated with importation from other countries (i.e. Americans traveling abroad and spreading measles when they return or foreign travelers bringing it into the U.S.). The spike in the number of cases reported this year is likely due to the rise in cases in South East Asia and Europe—especially in France where as many as 10,000 cases have been reported within the first four months of this year.

Routine vaccinations have been on the decline among some populations in the U.S. because of fears of vaccine safety and the false belief that vaccines trigger autism in children (see Time article about the fraudulent study that originally linked certain childhood vaccines to autism and served as a basis for the anti-vaccination movement). According to the CDC, individuals who refuse to complete vaccination put others at risk, especially infants younger than 1 year old who are too young to receive the MMR vaccine and rely on others around them to be vaccinated for protection. Because measles is a highly infectious disease, a large proportion of the population must remain vaccinated to ensure immunity to those who are not. That is, small lapses in coverage result in large outbreaks. The CDC reported that 9 outbreaks accounted for about half the cases in the U.S. The CDC reports:

Among the 45 U.S. residents aged 12 months−19 years who acquired measles, 39 (87%) were unvaccinated, including 24 whose parents claimed a religious or personal exemption and eight who missed opportunities for vaccination. Among the 42 U.S. residents aged ≥20 years who acquired measles, 35 (83%) were unvaccinated, including six who declined vaccination because of philosophical objections to vaccination. Of the 33 U.S. residents who were vaccine-eligible and had traveled abroad, 30 were unvaccinated and one had received only 1 of the 2 recommended doses.

LJ cf
SSDAN Office

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