Between the period Jan 1 to May 23, there have been a total of 288 confirmed cases of measles in the United States, the highest number since its elimination from the country in 2000, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said on Thursday.
"This is not the kind of record we want to break," said Dr Anne Schuchat, director of immunisation and respiratory diseases for the CDC, noted The NY Times.
The CDC warned that to reduce one's risk to acquiring the virus, vaccination coverage is critical to prevent large measles outbreaks.
Measles, or what's also referred to as rubeola, cases have been reported from 18 states and New York City. Most cases were reported from Ohio (138), California (60), and New York City (26). Fifteen outbreaks have accounted for 227 (79 per cent) of the 288 cases. The median outbreak size has been five cases (range: 3-138 cases). There is an ongoing outbreak involving 138 cases, occurring primarily among unvaccinated Amish communities in Ohio.
Most of the cases have been in persons who were unvaccinated (69 per cent) or who had an unknown vaccination status (20 per cent); 30 (10 per cent) were in persons who were vaccinated. Cited reasons for being unvaccinated included: 165 (85 per cent) declined vaccination because of religious, philosophical, or personal objections, 11 (6 per cent) were missed opportunities for vaccination, and 10 (5 per cent) were too young to receive vaccination.
Measles is a highly contagious, acute viral illness that can lead to serious complications and death. Symptoms of the virus can cause fever, runny nose, cough and a rash but can lead to more serious complications, including brain damage, pneumonia as well as loss of hearing, explains the CDC.
The CDC reminded the public that MMR vaccination is recommended for all children, with the first dose given at age 12-15 months, and a second dose at age 4-6 years. Catch-up vaccination is recommended for children and adolescents who have not received 2 appropriately spaced doses. Unless they have other evidence of immunity, adults should receive at least 1 dose of MMR vaccine, and 2 appropriately spaced doses of MMR vaccine are recommended for health-care personnel, college students, and international travelers (6).