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Measles Up 118% in 1st Half of '86; Failure to Vaccinate Children Cited

August 22, 1986|Associated Press

ATLANTA — Measles, believed to be on the verge of eradication in this country three years ago, is making a worrisome comeback, with cases more than doubling in the first half of 1986, health officials said Thursday.

In the first 26 weeks of this year, 3,921 measles cases were reported in the United States--more than in any full year since 1980 and 118% more than the 1,802 in the first half of 1985, the national Centers for Disease Control reported.

Measles, characterized by fever and a red, spotty rash, is far less common than it was in the years before 1963, when the measles vaccine was introduced. Then, it was not unusual for the nation to report half a million cases a year.

But the new statistics are a disappointment to public health officials, three years after low levels of measles led center researchers to believe the disease was close to being wiped out in the United States.

In 1983, the nation hit a record low of 1,497 measles cases. The disease has increased every year since.

"We're trying to figure out what is going on," said Dr. Lauri Markowitz, a measles specialist with the disease center.

The center said that "vaccine failures and unvaccinated pre-schoolers have contributed to the large number of outbreaks" this year.

And early indications are that, at least in some cases, immunization is not taking place as it should, Markowitz said.

Nearly half the cases in the first half of this year occurred in just two major outbreaks, in New Jersey and New York City, with more than half of those patients being unvaccinated pre-schoolers.

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