In this year alone, there have been 288 cases of measles in the United States (US), which is the highest reported number since the year 2000. The Center for Disease Control stated this is the highest number of cases reported within the first five months of a year, in the past twenty years. In May 1994, 764 cases of the measles were reported between January and May.
According to the CDC, 90 percent of those who became ill with measles were either not previously vaccinated or the status of their immunization was unknown. US Public Health Service Assistant Surgeon General, Anne Schuchat stated the current number of reports should serve as a “wake up call” for the public, and advises everyone who has not yet done so, to get vaccinated. The CDC recommends two doses of the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine for ages 12 months and over. However, for those who are traveling outside of the US, vaccines should be given for anyone over seven months old. For this year, 52 percent of the cases have been adults who were anywhere from 20 to 65 years old, and infants as young as two-weeks old have been infected; however, no deaths have been reported.
Schuchat said that a number of healthcare providers viewed measles as a rare illness and that many of them have never treated patients suffering from the disease. She attributes this to measures taken by the US in providing necessary vaccines to prevent the measles as well as immediately treating infections as they arise.
The outbreak of measles in the US has been reported in 18 states, which include Hawaii, California, Oregon, Washington, Texas, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Ohio, Missouri, Tennessee, Alabama, Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Connecticut and Virginia.
Most of the cases have come from Knox County, Ohio, which has a large Amish population. According to Melanie Amato, the public information officer for the state Department of Health, Amish missionaries brought the virus to the US from the Philippines. Julie Miller, County Health Commissioner stated that members of these communities have either been getting immunized or staying home to prevent spreading of the illness. The Philippines has been facing a large outbreak of measles since October of last year. More than 30,000 cases have been reported and 41 people have died.
In the year 2000, measles were “eliminated” from the US, meaning that there were no ongoing transmissions of the illness for at least one year in the entire country. Prior to the advent of the measles vaccine in 1963, 48,000 Americans were hospitalized and close to 500 died each year. Currently, an estimated 60 cases are reported in the US yearly, most of which are transmitted through travel outside of the country.
Although measles are no longer common in the US, 164,000 people around the world die from the illness each year. Measles are highly contagious and are contracted through breathing air that is contaminated with the virus, coughing or sneezing. Symptoms of the disease begin to show one to two weeks after infection and consist of fever, runny nose, cough, red, watery eyes, aches and a body rash that is “reddish-brownish” in color.
By Sarah Temori