Number of measles cases rocket amid warnings of poor vaccination rates

Maricruz Casares
Abril 16, 2019

Smaller measles outbreaks are ongoing in New Jersey and California.

Measles is surging. Last week the US recorded 90 cases, making this year's outbreak the second largest in more than two decades.

So far this year, the USA has confirmed 555 measles cases, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced Monday. That's 50 percent higher than the total number recorded a year ago, even though we're only about a quarter of the way through 2019.

"The number of cases is accelerating", says Dr. Amanda Cohn, a senior advisor for vaccines at the CDC.

U.S. federal health officials said on Monday the number of confirmed cases of measles in the United States this year jumped by almost 20% in the week ended 11 April - the country's second-worst outbreak in almost two decades.

Most of the cases have been in NY, site of an outbreak among ultra-Orthodox Jews that started in the fall. "These cases were imported from other countries, but because of low vaccination coverage in these communities, measles is spreading widely throughout these communities".

Last week, New York City officials declared a public health emergency and ordered mandatory measles vaccinations to halt the outbreak concentrated among ultra-Orthodox Jews in Brooklyn, putting in place the broadest vaccination order in the United States in almost three decades.

Health officials say they have seen anti-vaccination pamphlets containing misinformation being distributed in the affected parts of Brooklyn.

Several countries around the world are now experiencing massive measles outbreaks.

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Measles can be serious for all age groups, but it is most risky for children under 5 and adults over 70. If the current trend continues, the record of 667 cases set in 2014 will be eclipsed well before the end of this year. And the European Union is tallying about a thousand cases a month.

The number of cases of measles rose by more than 300 per cent in the first three months of this year compared to the same period in 2018, according to new figures from the World Health Organization.

More American families are bringing measles home with them after traveling overseas, Cohn says.

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NY health officials said the Brooklyn outbreak was caused by an unvaccinated child returning from a trip to Israel, which is also grappling with an outbreak.

Measles can be an extremely serious disease. This can lead to convulsions and leave a child deaf or with an intellectual disability.

Measles was declared eliminated in the 2000 thanks to the MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccine.

Before the first measles vaccine became available in 1963, the disease killed hundreds of people and hospitalized 48,000 each year, according to the CDC.

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