U.S. sees largest measles outbreak in 25 years

Grant Boone
April 30, 2019

Federal officials said they are concerned that the outbreak could gain footing in the US again if the outbreaks are controlled soon.

Unicef's analysis estimated that 169 million children around the world missed out on the first dose of the measles vaccine between 2010 and 2017 - an average of 21.1 million a year.

Just 372 cases were confirmed past year, but that number has skyrocketed in 2019 as the disease spread in communities were people were not vaccinated as a baby.

As of April 24, there are 685 cases of measles in 22 U.S. states, the CDC reported, even as increasing reports of so-called anti-vax supporters refuse to vaccinate themselves or their children. President Trump has previously appeared to link vaccines with autism and, earlier in his presidency, looked into setting up a vaccine safety committee. More than 500 of the people infected were not vaccinated.

Measles was "declared eliminated" in 2000, according to the CDC.

Of the cases that have occurred so far in 2019, 9% of patients have been hospitalized and 3% have come down with pneumonia, health officials said.

"If you think you or someone in your family may have measles, stay at home and phone your doctor to alert them of your symptoms and allow them to make arrangements to assess you safely and without infecting other people, or call Healthline on 0800 611 116 for advice", Shoemack said. Most of these cases, as well as those in Rockland County, have involved members of the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community where misinformation on the safety of vaccines has spread.

"Vaccine-preventable diseases belong in the history books, not our emergency rooms", U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said in a briefing.

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"That is a wonderfully American solution: We'll double the cost of the vaccine program in order to protect this small group of children from getting measles and its complications", Schaffner said. More than one-third of the cases are children younger than 5.

So far, even the hundreds of measles cases reported in the USA this year pale in comparison with the 1950s, when millions of people each year got measles.

Three-quarters of those who caught the extremely contagious disease are children or teenagers.

"Individuals who aren't sure if they received the vaccine (because they were born before 1957) or unsure if they have natural immunity can have their level of immunity tested by their physician", says Rachael Piltch-Loeb, a Preparedness Fellow at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Division of Policy Translation and Leadership Development, and associate research scientist with the Program on Population Impact Recovery and Resilience at NYU's College of Global Public Health.

The two doses of the MMR vaccine are mandatory for children. After that, other unvaccinated people who traveled to Israel have been infected with the measles, and people who didn't travel there at all also fell ill with the disease.

Although it's likely harmless, Schaffner says it's not necessary for most people to get another dose of MMR, especially if they're up-to-date with CDC recommendations.

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