US measles cases surpass 2023 total in first three months of this year, CDC says

Child after receiving a vaccination

This article appeared on the Holland Sentinel. Read more here.

Measles cases in the U.S. continue to increase, so much so that this year’s amount has already surpassed 2023’s total, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

As of March 21, the CDC confirmed that 64 measles cases have been reported by 17 jurisdictions — including Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, New York City, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Washington.

A total of 58 cases were reported in the U.S. in 2023, according to the CDC.

The CDC issued a health advisory on March 18 to warn people, especially children and international travelers, about the increase in global and U.S. cases and to suggest they get vaccinated.

“Measles (rubeola) is highly contagious; one person infected with measles can infect 9 out of 10 unvaccinated individuals with whom they come in close contact,” the CDC’s health advisory said.

Who is contracting measles?

Most reported cases were linked to international travel and children ages 12 months and older who have not received the measles vaccine, the CDC said. Many countries, including Austria, the Phillippines, Romania and the United Kingdom are dealing with measles outbreaks, according to the government agency.

Although the number of cases is concerning, the CDC said due to “high population immunity against measles in most U.S. communities, the risk of widescale spread is low.” Some communities may be at higher risk for outbreaks if they have a “low coverage” of vaccinated people, according to the agency.

Dr. Demetre Daskalakis, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases at the CDC, told the New York Times that the increase in cases should “alert us, rather than alarm us.”‘

Parents should talk to their pediatrician about vaccination, according to Daskalakis. Parents discussing vaccinations with doctors they trust can help in what Daskalakis told the New York Times is an “uphill battle.”

“Given the impact on vaccine confidence that we’ve seen after Covid, and during Covid,” the doctor said, “I think we have to just keep that drumbeat going.”

Confirmed Measles Cases Reported By State
*As of March 21, 2024
SOURCE State health officials, Newsweek, CDC, USA TODAY research
How is measles transmitted?

Measles is “an acute viral respiratory illness,” according to the CDC.

If contracted, measles can be “highly contagious” and lead to “severe health complications, including pneumonia, encephalitis (inflammation of the brain), and death,” the government agency said.

Measles is an airborne virus that typically affects children ages 5 and younger, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

What are the symptoms of measles?

Measles usually begins when the infected develops a fever, cough, runny nose and pink eye for about two to four days before rash onset, according to the CDC. The incubation period for measles from exposure to fever is typically about 10 days, while rash onset will begin to be visible around 14 days after initial exposure, the agency said.

Two doses of vaccine can prevent measles, the WHO said.

“Measles vaccination averted 56 million deaths being between 2000 and 2021,” according to the United Nations agency.

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