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Health officials call for vigilance, immunization in measles resurgence

Baby feet with measles

This article was posted in the Petoskey News. Read more here

Michigan reported its first confirmed case of measles since 2019 in February, and by April 10 there had been five documented measles cases so far this year.

This uptick in measles is not unique to Michigan alone. Across the United States, 41 cases have been reported in 2024 across 16 states, as reported by Michigan.gov.

Dr. Joshua Meyerson, medical director of the Health Department of Northwest Michigan, has been vocal about the necessity of vaccinations in preventing measles outbreaks. He underscored the highly contagious nature of the disease and emphasized the need for robust immunization rates to curb sustained transmission within communities.

“Measles is not to be taken lightly — it’s a highly contagious and serious illness with a high hospitalization rate and mortality toll,” Meyerson said.

Meyerson added that Northern Michigan has not had any reported measles cases this year, but said it is important to remain vigilant as measles transmission thrives in locations with subpar immunization rates.

“We still have good immunization rates in this country, much better than in some of the developed European countries that are having sustained outbreaks,” he said. “But the concern is the potential. If you have a community that has lower rates, where you’re under 90 percent, you can have sustained transmission.”

Despite strong immunization rates in the region, Meyerson noted a concerning downtrend since the onset of the pandemic. He also pointed to the effectiveness of the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine, which has a 98-99 percent lifetime immunity with the two doses given to children, and stressed the importance of adhering to measles immunization schedules to bolster community-wide immunity. Children are given their first dose at one year of age and the second between four to six years of age.

Measles is known for its contagiousness and spreads readily through the air, Meyerson said.

“Measles is the most contagious virus,” he said. “About one to three people out of about 1,000 will die. And that’s a fairly low percentage, but not when it’s highly contagious. It’s a very serious illness.”

According to a recent Detroit Free Press article, measles is so contagious that 90 percent of unvaccinated people who are exposed to the virus will become infected. About 1 in 5 people who get the measles end up hospitalized, according to the CDC.

Michigan’s five cases were in Washtenaw, Oakland and Wayne counties, with several linked to recent international travel.

“It can be very serious, it’s very contagious,” Meyerson said. “Although, we have not had any cases here, it still exists in other parts of the world. We should remember it’s only a plane ride away.”

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You’ve got questions. That’s a good thing.

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