Measles Making a Comeback in US

Measles cases at nearly 600 so far this year

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) In 2000, health officials declared that measles had been eliminated from the United States. But this year, it seems measles is making a comeback.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has documented nearly 600 cases of measles this year.

The health agency reports that most of the people who got measles were not vaccinated.

Measles is a serious and highly contagious respiratory illness. The disease causes fever, runny nose, cough and a body-wide rash. People of any age can get measles, but it most often affects children.

About 1 out of 10 children with measles also gets an ear infection. As much as 1 out of 20 children with measles develops pneumonia.

"Measles is extremely contagious, and nine out of 10 susceptible persons exposed to a measles case will develop measles," said Steven Davis, MD, an infectious disease specialist at Baylor Medical Center at Irving.

In May, the CDC released a report confirming 288 cases of measles since the start of the year. That case count was the highest seen in a five-month period since 1994.

As of Aug. 29, the case count had jumped to 592. A total of 89 percent of the cases this year were part of 18 different outbreaks.

Measles cases have been reported in 21 states. These states include Alabama, California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin.

The main reason for the increase in measles cases, according to the CDC, is that many people are not getting vaccinated.

"Because measles is so infectious, care officials can only curb these numbers by improving vaccination rates for all susceptible persons in their community," Dr. Davis told dailyRx News. "Education and pre-departure vaccination of travelers can also reduce but not eliminate introduction of measles back to their communities in US."

Measles is still common in many parts of the world. Travelers who are not vaccinated can bring the disease back to the US, where it can easily spread in communities with low vaccination rates.

"Outbreaks have occurred recently in Europe, India and the Philippines. Cases recently have been imported to US from susceptible international travelers to these areas. Since the incubation period is up to 21 days, and persons are infectious four days before and four days after rash appears, exposed travelers can infect many of their contacts before precautions can be taken to reduce transmission," said Dr. Davis.

The CDC recommends that children receive the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine twice — once when they are 12 to 15 months old and again when they are 4 to 6 years old.

"Children from age 1 and all adults should receive at least one dose of MMR vaccine," Dr. Davis said. "International travelers, health care workers and college students should receive two doses of MMR vaccine. Recent international travelers with fever or rash should report these symptoms promptly so their physicians can perform testing for measles if indicated."

Review Date: 
September 10, 2014
Last Updated:
November 24, 2014