Measles cases near record-high numbers
15 states battle almost 400 cases this year
Surge has thrown a spotlight on anti-vaccination movement
Almost 400 cases of the measles have been confirmed in 15 states this year as the disease nears record numbers since being declared eliminated almost two decades ago.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said 387 measles cases have been confirmed from Jan. 1 to March 28, an increase of 73 cases last week alone.
The surge has thrown a spotlight on the anti-vaccination movement. Most people who contract measles have not been vaccinated, the CDC said, and measles are extremely contagious.
“If one person has it, up to 90 percent of the people close to that person who are not immune will also become infected,” the CDC said.
The record total for one year since 2000 is 667 in 2014. There were 372 cases last year.
Globally, measles is a major concern. The World Health Organization describes the disease as a prominent cause of death among children, even though a vaccine is available. More than 110,000 people, most of them children, died of measles worldwide in 2017. The last measles death on record in the USA was in 2015.
Most of the U.S. cases this year take place where “outbreaks” – defined as three or more localized cases – have swept parts of New York, California, Illinois, Texas and Washington state, the CDC said. The outbreaks are linked to travelers who brought measles back from countries including Israel, Ukraine and the Philippines, the CDC said.
Measles is still common in many parts of the world, including some countries in Europe, Asia, the Pacific and Africa. The CDC said vaccinations are 97 percent effective, and the agency urged vaccinations for people traveling internationally.
In New York, Rockland County officials declared a state of emergency, citing more than 150 measles cases. The county barred unvaccinated children under 18 from public places for 30 days, although parks and outdoor areas are not included.
The ban, which will be in effect for 30 days, prompted a backlash from a small group of anti-vaccination advocates, who protested Thursday in what they dubbed on Facebook a “Rockland County – Unvaccinated Civil Disobedience.”
Common measles symptoms include fever, runny nose, cough and a rash that can spread across the entire body. A very small number of those infected can develop pneumonia, swelling of the brain or other serious symptoms. Measles also can cause pregnant women to deliver prematurely.
The virus can be spread through the air or through contact with surfaces touched by those who are infected. It can live for up to two hours in areas where the infected person coughed or sneezed and on surfaces the person touched.
Other states that reported cases to the CDC are Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Kentucky, Michigan, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey and Oregon.
The Vancouver Clinic inWashington state warns patients and visitors to take precautions against a measles outbreak in the Pacific Northwest.