Health officials say last year was the worst year for measles in the United States in 15 years. Fifteen years ago in 1996, there were 508 reported cases. In 2011 there were 222 cases of measles reported, that was a jump up from 50-60 on a typical year to year basis. Most of these measles cases were imported, meaning by foreign visitors of Americans who caught the virus overseas.
Dr. Anne Schuchat of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a statement, “For those of you traveling abroad, bring back memories and not measles.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report stated that low vaccination rates in parts of the world like in Europe, cause the rise in measles for the United States. While there are no deaths linked to measles, more than on third of people who get infected have to be hospitalized.
Even though children in the United States have been getting vaccinated for measles for 50 years, over two-thirds of American citizens have no been vaccinated. Until recently, many parents believed that a measles vaccination caused autism so they sought exemptions. Dr. Anne Schuchat, director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Infectious Diseases said, “Many parents simply don’t think there is a threat of disease.”
According to the report in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, of the 222 cases in 2011, 141 were people who were eligible for the MMR vaccine, but did not receive it. Children under the age of 6 months are not eligible to receive the measles vaccine, and those with leukemia or other severe diseases. Those born before 1957 do not get the vaccine because it is assumed they were exposed to the virus before immunization programs began.
Of the 222 reported measles cases in 2011:
50% (112) were associated with 17 outbreaks
90% were associated with importations from abroad
52 cases involved American residents coming home from abroad
20 cases involved non-US citizens visiting the country from abroad
Measles is very contagious. It spreads through the air and can stay in a room for more than two hours after a person infected has already left. Measles symptoms usually begin 8 – 12 days after you are exposed to the virus. Measles symptoms include a fever, runny nose, cough, light sensitivity, muscle pain, white spots inside the mouth and a rash all over the body.