Worst US measles outbreak in 20 years is due to overseas travel

About 164,000 people around the world die from measles each year.
MCT Regional News
May 31, 2014

After declaring in 2000 that measles had been eliminated from the U.S. through a successful vaccination program, government officials now say the number of confirmed cases has reached a 20-year high as people who get the disease abroad bring it back to America.

Unvaccinated Americans and foreign visitors who traveled to the Philippines, Europe, Africa and Asia are the main culprits in a growing spike of U.S. measles cases that began several years ago and exploded this year.

As of last Friday, 288 cases have been reported in 18 states, the highest year-to-date total since 1994, when 963 cases were reported by year’s end. Ninety-seven percent — 280 — of the 2014 U.S. cases were imported from other countries.

“Measles is coming in on airplanes from places where the disease still circulates or in where large outbreaks are occurring,” said Dr. Anne Schuchat, the director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

A highly contagious viral respiratory disease that grows in cells at the back of the throat and lungs, measles is spread through the air by coughing, sneezing and even breathing. It can cause fever and coldlike symptoms, along with a stubborn rash.

Fifteen measles outbreaks, involving three or more related cases, have occurred in places such as New York City and in California, where six outbreaks were reported in six counties. Forty-three people have been hospitalized nationally, but no deaths have been reported.

The imported virus is “landing in places in the U.S. where groups of unimmunized people live,” Schuchat added. “That setting gives the measles virus a welcome wagon by providing a chance for outbreaks to occur. And the larger the outbreak, the more difficult to stop.”

Ohio’s 138 cases have been linked to Amish communities in which several members had traveled to the Philippines, which is experiencing its own measles outbreak, with more than 32,000 cases and 41 deaths this year, Schuchat said.

Low vaccination rates in Amish communities have been a long-standing health issue.

Ninety percent of reported U.S. measles cases are among people who haven’t been vaccinated for the disease or who didn’t know their vaccination status.

Of 195 unvaccinated U.S. residents with measles, 165, or 85 percent, chose to go without vaccinations for personal, religious or philosophical reasons, “not because they were too young or had medical reasons that they couldn’t be vaccinated,” Schuchat said.

“Unfortunately, when we have larger communities of unimmunized people, it’s more likely that bigger outbreaks will occur, making it much more difficult to control the spread of disease and making us vulnerable to have the virus re-establish itself in our country again,” Schuchat said.

Health officials are urging people to get vaccinated for measles, especially before international travel.

About 10 percent of children who get measles also get ear infections and about 5 percent develop pneumonia. About 1 in 1,000 measles patients contract encephalitis, and 1 or 2 out of 1,000 die.

Before the U.S. measles-vaccination program, which began in 1963, 3 million to 4 million people in the U.S. developed measles each year, leading to 48,000 hospitalizations and 400 to 500 deaths.

As measles vaccinations took off in the 1960s, the rate of transmission steadily declined, prompting health officials to declare in 2000 that the indigenous spread of the disease had been eradicated in the United States.

Its re-emergence through imported cases is a troubling development for health officials. U.S. measles patients this year range from 2 weeks old to age 65, with more than half over age 20. Forty-eight, or 17 percent, are ages 1 to 4.

In addition to the 229 measles cases in Ohio, California and New York state, 15 have been confirmed in Washington state, eight in Massachusetts, five each in Tennessee and Oregon, four in Texas and three each in Missouri, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

About 164,000 people around the world die from measles each year. Measles can also cause women to miscarry or give birth prematurely.

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By Tony Pugh - McClatchy Washington Bureau (MCT)

©2014 McClatchy Washington Bureau

Visit the McClatchy Washington Bureau at www.mcclatchydc.com

Distributed by MCT Information Services

Comments

hit the road jack

I think they stated it wrong,it should have said that worst outbreak of measles in 20 years due to misfits coming to this country and infecting everyone here.

DanielHolida

Define "misfits" please.

hit the road jack

I would say that misfit category is an undocumented or illegal person intruding into this country spreading diseases and virus's or the such,I'm not just speaking of Mexicans either,there are people from EVERY corner of the world who have gotten a plane or boat ride here and decided with the idiot politicians we have that they are not leaving,I could go on but I won't,this is a sample of what I am talking about.

theunknownmessanger

so where are your great great misfit grandparents from? guarantee its not the u.s. we are all unwanted misfits here man, unless your a Cherokee Indian or Mexican....that's who lived here before any white man brought his guns, greed, and disease to what used to be a beautiful land

hit the road jack

Well,if your disgracing this country then leave egghead! If you only knew what you were talking about it would be different.
i do not even want to argue with a idiot.

theunknownmessanger

hop on I75 and go back to the south hick....the biggest disgrace to our country are people like you, some ignorant hick who thinks his family tree started on American soil.If your so unhappy with the multicultural, multiracial aspects that make this country what it is and what it was formed from than why don't you leave. chances are you don't even speak the language from which your roots are planted. only an idiot would leave an ignorant comment and not have the intelligence to back it up.

theunknownmessanger

immunize your children dumba$$e$...there is no hidden agenda or government conspiracy behind it....i don't care what your religious beliefs are, what color you are,or if your gay or straight, if you have a child that is not immunized you should be charged with child endangering, regardless of any belief!