Measles cases spike in U.S.
In 2000, measles was eliminated from the United States, which means no continuous transmission of a disease for 12 months or more in a geographic area. Measles can still occur, however, when people who haven’t been vaccinated get infected in countries where the disease has not been eliminated, and bring it home.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that’s exactly what’s been happening this year. A recent CDC report says that from January 1 to June 20, 2014, there were 514 confirmed cases of measles in the U.S., the highest number of cases since 2000. Measles cases have been reported in 20 states this year, including Illinois.
Measles is a viral respiratory disease that affects an estimated 20 million people worldwide every year, and is responsible for 164,000 deaths annually. Measles causes fever, cough, body rash and a runny nose. Of children who get measles, up to 5 percent get pneumonia and one in 1,000 gets encephalitis; one or two out of 1,000 die.
“Measles is a very highly contagious disease, and it’s a serious disease. There is danger from this disease, especially for the young and old,” says Dr. Malliswari Challapalli, infectious disease specialist at Advocate Children’s Hospital in Oak Lawn, Ill.
“Immunization definitely protects against measles,” she says. “Measles vaccine is a great vaccine and highly immunogenic.” But un-immunized people who travel to endemic areas can bring the disease back into the United States. Generally in the U.S., babies are given their first measles vaccination at one year, but people are never too old to get vaccinated, Dr. Challapalli says.
She adds that people who aren’t certain they were immunized and plan to travel abroad, especially to areas where measles is endemic, should get the vaccine. More than half of worldwide deaths occur in India, and the Philippines is also experiencing a large measles outbreak, according to the CDC.
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