More measles cases were reported between the first of this year and April 25 than in the same time period of any year since 2001, officials from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are warning.
In that time period, 64 cases of measles in nine states were reported to the Atlanta-based CDC, with 14 cases requiring patients to be hospitalized with complications. No deaths are linked to the recent outbreak, officials said.
The disease is extremely contagious, Dr. Anne Schuchat, the director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said during the May 1 press conference. Measles is a respiratory disease spread by coughing and sneezing, but the virus can linger in the environment for several hours.
“I think those are wake-up calls that this can be serious, and no one wants to see their child hospitalized,” Dr. Schuchat said.
Measles was declared eliminated in the United States in 2000, because immunizations were able to stop ongoing transmissions within the country.
Many people, however, travel to other countries and can then bring the disease back. Travelers to Europe may not take the same precautions as they would if they were visiting less-developed nations, the CDC officials said.
Of the 64 cases reported, 59 occurred among U.S. citizens; 54 of those involved importation of the disease from another country. Twenty of the cases were seen in children up to 15 months old, who were either too young or had not been vaccinated; 21 cases were in people 16 months to 19 years old who either claimed vaccination immunity or had missed opportunities to get the vaccine.
“We want to make sure that parents who are making decisions about immunizing their children are aware of the measles risk that’s ongoing around the country, and make sure that they have a chance to talk with their provider about opportunities for protection,” Dr. Schuchat said.