Measles Incidence Highest in 20 Years: CDC

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) received reports of 288 cases of measles from January 1 through May 23, 2014, the highest number for the first five months of the year since 1994. About one in seven cases resulted in hospitalization. The prevalence of vaccination against measles in the United States had reduced the incidence of the disease nearly to zero; in fact, the disease was declared to have been eliminated in 2000, after there had been no continuous transmission for more than 12 months.

Importation

The CDC has determined that 280 of the cases, 97 percent, were “associated with importation” from 18 countries. Americans have been exposed to measles while traveling abroad, and then spread the illness to others in their communities where many people have not been vaccinated. Dr. Anne Schuchat, director of the National Center for Immunizations and Respiratory Diseases, said that clusters of cases began after travel to the Philippines, where a major outbreak has been ongoing since October 2013.

Prevalence of Measles

Measles is a serious, highly contagious respiratory disease; it is still common in Asia, the Pacific, Africa, and come countries in Europe. Worldwide, about 20 million people get measles each year, and 122,000 die.

Importance of Vaccination

Ninety percent of the reported measles cases occurred in people who were never vaccinated or whose vaccination status was unknown. Measles is easily prevented with timely vaccination. The CDC states that everyone over the age of 12 months should receive two doses of the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine; if they are planning international travel, anyone over the age of six months should be vaccinated.

Recommendations

Because the disease has become so rare, many practitioners have never seen a case of measles. Therefore, the CDC advises practitioners to evaluate patients for measles if they present with fever and rash accompanied by cough, runny nose, or pink eye, especially if they have recently traveled outside the United States or have been exposed to someone who has done so. If practitioners suspect measles, they should collect specimens for testing, report the case to the local health department, and isolate the patient immediately to prevent the spread of the disease.