From January 1 through April 25, 2008, CDC received a total of 64 reports of confirmed measles cases in nine states — the highest number for the same time period since 2001.
Two days ago, in a Digital Journal.com article, we saw that one in four US children were not being immunized properly and discussed the risks of those large figures.
Today the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports an alarming number of cases of confirmed measles across the United States.
In four of the states — Arizona, New York, Michigan, and Wisconsin — outbreaks (3 or more cases linked in time or place) are ongoing. Outbreaks may occur when measles cases are imported into the U.S. Ten of the recent case-patients (5 US residents and 5 visitors to the U.S.) acquired measles abroad, and the remaining cases are considered linked to the imported cases.
Out of the 64 cases only 1 had documentation of being immunized previously and 14 were infants that were too young to be immunized.
Fourteen people have had to be hospitalized as a result of this year's measles outbreak and no deaths have been reported.
There have been 15 reported measles cases in Arizona, 12 in California, 3 in Hawaii, 1 in Illinois, 4 in Michigan, 22 in New York City and 1 in New York state. There's also been 1 case in Pennsylvania, 1 in Virginia and 4 in Wisconsin
Disease transmission happened in a variety of settings, including homes, including childcare centers, schools, hospitals, emergency rooms, and doctors' offices and many of them among US children with families that claimed exemption from immunization for personal or religious beliefs.
Measles is a highly contagious disease which is spread through coughing or sneezing and symptoms can include a rash, high fever, coughing, and runny nose. The disease can also cause more serious complications, such as ear infections, pneumonia, encephalitis (inflammation of the brain), even death.
Head and shoulders of boy with measles on third day of rash.
To get a good idea of how much worse these outbreaks are this year and why health officials and the CDC is so concerned, the comparison between 2006, which showed only 55 cases reported for the whole year, 66 cases for 2005 and now, which we are only on the first day of the fifth month of the year and the US already has 64 (Associated Press reports more than 70) confirmed cases with 7 months left to go before the end of the year.
The reason that the Associated Press' numbers are higher is because they point out the CDC's numbers doesn't include Washington state, where eight cases were reported this week.
Anne Schuchat, who is the director of the CDC's National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, says, "We are concerned about the population of people who are choosing not to be vaccinated and whether we may be on the verge of experiencing larger outbreaks among people in the United States."
Schuchat also believes that they have not seen an end to the outbreaks and points out in a Washington Post article that these 64 cases are the ones that are confirmed. She believes there are more that have not been reported.
Seven of the infected children were 12 to 15 months old, but not yet vaccinated. Twenty-one others were 16 months to 19 years old, and 14 of those children had not been vaccinated due to religious or personal beliefs or had missed their vaccinations, Schuchat said.
Schuchat also maintains that the increase of measles seen in the United States is from being imported from other countries, such as Europe, Israel, Belgium, China, Japan, India and Italy, who are all sources of the measle virus.
In Switzerland, there have already been more than 2,000 cases and in Israel more than 1,000.
6 to 20 percent of people who get the disease will get an ear infection, diarrhea, or even pneumonia. One of every 1,000 people with measles will develop inflammation of the brain, and about one out of 1,000 will die, the CDC said.
For complete information on measles cases reported in the U.S. in 2008, read Measles—United States, January 1–April 25, 2008, MMWR, 1 May 2008.
To learn more about measles and the MMR vaccine, go to CDC's Measles Vaccination page.