The USA now has the most measles cases in 20 years and the most since homegrown outbreaks were eliminated in 2000, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced Thursday.
Since January, 228 cases of measles were reported, a 20-year high for the first five months of the year.
Unvaccinated residents in the U.S. and foreign visitors who traveled to the Philippines, Europe, Africa and the Pacific are the main culprits in a growing spike of measles cases in this country that began several years ago and exploded this year.
Dr. Anne Schuchat, assistant surgeon general and director of CDC’s National Center for Immunizations and Respiratory Diseases, said 90 percent of all U.S. measles cases were in people who were not vaccinated or who vaccination status was unknown.
The confirmed case count for 2014, as of may 23, was 288 and growing, the CDC says. That number includes 138 cases from Ohio, where the biggest outbreak is ongoing, and where the actual count is 166 as of Thursday, according to the state health department.
A highly contagious viral respiratory disease that grows in cells at the back of the throat and lungs, measles is spread through the air by coughing, sneezing and even breathing. It can cause fever and cold-like symptoms, along with a stubborn body rash.
About ten percent of children who get the disease also get an ear infection and about five percent develop pneumonia. About one in 1.000 measles patients contract encephalitis and one or tow out of 1.000 die.
As the summer travel season begins, the CDC advises two doses of the measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine for everyone beginning at age 12 months. For babies traveling internationally, the CDC recommends those older than 6 months should receive the MMR vaccine prior to departure.
Measles was declared eliminated from the United States in 2000- meaning there was no longer continuous measles transmission for more than 12 months, the CDC said.
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