Current Measles Outbreak The Worst U.S. Has Seen In 14 Years

When I was a young cheese-fed sprout growing up, the measles sounded like one of those awfully scary diseases that only people in history books ever came down with. Because I knew enough to know that getting vaccinated against it meant I likely wouldn’t get it. But measles are all the rage again now, or at least cases are climbing to record highs since the disease was eliminated 14 years ago in the U.S.

The current measles outbreak currently infected people in the country is at the highest number of cases in 14 years, with 288 cases of the potentially deadly infection popping up in 18 states, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said yesterday, according to the Washington Post.

The hardest hit states are Ohio with 138 confirmed cases, California with 60 and New York clocks in with 26 cases. And 97% of those cases were brought into the country by mostly American travelers who contracted measles abroad. Many are picking it up in the Philippines, which has had a large measles outbreak recently.

The epicenter of the outbreak here is the Amish community in Ohio, likely because many of the residents aren’t vaccinated against the measles. Fortunately, no deaths have been reported here as a result of the measles thus far.

“This is a wake-up call for travelers and parents to make sure vaccinations are up to date,” said Anne Schuchat, director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases. “Measles vaccine is very safe and effective and measles can be serious,” she added. “It’s very infectious.”

Measles is a highly contagious respiratory disease that usually hits children the hardest. Symptoms include fever, a runny nose, cough and a rash of tiny red dots starting at the head and spreading down the body. Many might not be aware of the warning signs, since measles haven’t been seen in years, say doctors.

But despite the fact that kids are usually the ones with measles, the CDC says more than half the cases this year have been adults over the age of 20.

The last time the CDC saw so many cases this early on in the year was 1994, when 794 people were infected by this time, Schuchat says.

Part of the issue, according to Schuchat, stems from the number of people who choose not to be immunized for various reasons, and that is not contributing to an overall public health problem.

And even if you’re vaccinated — think you’re immune from those vaccinations as a kid? Some adults can lose their immunity over time, and might need to be re-vaccinated, the CDC says.

The CDC’s Schuchat urges anyone who isn’t sure whether or not their immunizations are up to date to play it safe and get another dose, especially if you’re traveling to the Philippines or doing work in the health care system.

U.S. measles outbreak sets record for post-elimination era [Washington Post]

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