According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more people have been infected with measles in the United States during the first four months of this year than in the first four months of the past 18 years. While currently most prevalent in the U.S., measles outbreaks have been making appearances across the globe, and health officials are concerned, as this is the largest outbreak of measles in recent decades.
Health officials report 13 outbreaks and more than 200 cases have been recorded this year in the U.S. alone. With at least 15 different states affected, Ohio is reporting that as many as 68 cases of measles, while California is reporting 58 cases from January 1 to April 14. For California, the most cases of measles in the state since 1995. In the past 13 years, the average number of measles cases was nine per year.
In California many of the cases are due to popular travel to the Philippines. Philippines is currently going though a large measles outbreak with as many as 20,000 confirmed and suspected cases have been reported in the country. Travelers may carry the disease back to the U.S. where they can potentially infect those who have not been vaccinated with the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine because they are too young or have intentionally remained unvaccinated. Meanwhile in Canada, there have been almost 400 measles cases this year. This is the largest outbreak of measles in almost two decades across the globe.
A big contributing factor to the spread is the lack of awareness about the disease among the doctors. In 2000, it was reported that measles has been eradicated, and thus many doctors have never seen a measles case, and are unable to recognize its features. Measles, however, is one of the most contagious infectious diseases and symptoms frequently include cough, conjunctivitis, a high fever and a bright red rash from head to toe. Very rarely, measles can lead to dangerous complications such as pneumonia and brain infections, both of which can be fatal.
There have been no reported deaths from measles in the U.S. since 2005, says Dr. Anne Schuchat, who is the director of the CDC National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases. This is largely in part due to the popular CDC Vaccines for Children program which increased immunization rates and helped the dramatic decline of measles in the U.S. In the U.S., children under 19 are eligible for the program, which provides vaccines to children whose families cannot afford them.
So far, according to the CDC, vaccinations have prevented approximately 323 million illnesses and 732,000 deaths in the U.S.. While it is impossible to predict what will happen in the coming year, there is a prediction that more people will die from measles.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that children get two doses of the MMR vaccine beginning at 12 months, with the second dose between the ages of 4 and 6 years old. While infants aged 6 to 11 months old are able to, and should get the vaccine before traveling internationally. CDC also recommends that all U.S. residents born after 1956 ensure that they are still immune to measles or receive a new MMR vaccination, especially if they expect to travel outside North or South America where measles vaccine is rarely done due to the religious views of the countries.
While many make the choice not to vaccinate due to religious reasons, one of the main reasons why parents choose not to vaccinate their children is the previously reported link between vaccinations and autism. It is important for parents to remember that that report was false and there has not been any correlations between autism and vaccines. Making sure all the vaccines are up to date is an important step that will help the society avoid large and unnecessary outbreaks such as measles across the globe. If everyone who could vaccinate their kids, would, this measles outbreak would not be the worst one for many decades to come.
By Ivelina Kunina