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Measles cases on the rise in U.S., a risk to unvaccinated infants

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May 25, 2011|By Marissa Cevallos, HealthKey / For the Booster Shots blog
  • Measles cases are at their highest for this time of year since the 1990s, and international traveling is to blame, says a CDC report.
Measles cases are at their highest for this time of year since the 1990s,… (Don Kelsen / Los Angeles…)

Measles cases are having a banner year in the U.S. So far this year, 118 cases have been reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the highest for the January-May period since 1996.  

This could bode ill for infants, who are generally too young to get the vaccine. 

Travelers, especially those to Europe and Southeast Asia, get most of the blame, according to the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. The disease may have been deemed eliminated in this country in the late 1990s, but the same isn't true in the rest of the world. France, for example, reported 10,000 cases -- and six deaths -- during the first four months of the year.

Almost all of the 118 cases in this country, 89%, stemmed from importation of the disease. officials said, and 105 of those cases, again 89%, occurred in unvaccinated people. We'll let the CDC sum up the reasons for the lack of vaccinations:

"Among the 45 U.S. residents aged 12 months−19 years who acquired measles, 39 (87%) were unvaccinated, including 24 whose parents claimed a religious or personal exemption and eight who missed opportunities for vaccination. Among the 42 U.S. residents aged ≥20 years who acquired measles, 35 (83%) were unvaccinated, including six who declined vaccination because of philosophical objections to vaccination. Of the 33 U.S. residents who were vaccine-eligible and had traveled abroad, 30 were unvaccinated and one had received only 1 of the 2 recommended doses."  

None of the cases were fatal, though 40% required hospitalization and nine patients got pneumonia. Many cases were young children -- 15% of patients were 12 months or younger and 20% were 1 to 4 years old.

The CDC had this to say about infants:

“Children and adults who remain unvaccinated and develop measles also put others in their community at risk. For infants too young for routine vaccination (age <12 months) and persons with medical conditions that contraindicate measles immunization, the risk for measles complications is particularly high. These persons depend on high MMR vaccination coverage among those around them to protect them from exposure.”

So much for the disease being eliminated in this country.

RELATED:

Measles may be forgotten, and sometimes unrecognized, but it’s not gone.

Rise in measles prompts concern

More news from HealthKey

healthkey@tribune.com

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