Measles Are Off to Fast Start This Year

Measles are off to a busy start in the U.S. this year, with 84 cases reported as of Jan. 28, exceeding some recent yearly totals, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Thursday.

The cases were reported in 14 states. Of them, 56 are linked to a large outbreak of measles that originated in December at Disney theme parks, the CDC said. The remaining 28 are individuals who appear to have been infected overseas and brought the disease into the U.S., the agency said.

The high number of cases this month follows a particularly busy 2014 and has health officials concerned about further spread of a disease that officially was eliminated from the U.S. in 2000.“We want to prevent measles from getting a foothold in the U.S. and becoming endemic again,” Anne Schuchat, director of the CDC’s national center for immunization and respiratory diseases, told reporters during a conference call.

The median number of measles cases a year between 2001 and 2010 was 60, Dr. Schuchat said—fewer than were reported in the first four weeks of this year. The true number of cases in January could be even higher, as the CDC counts only cases that have been confirmed.The outbreak has some concerned about whether the Super Bowl, to be held this weekend in Arizona, presents another opportunity for the spread of measles. But Dr. Schuchat played down those concerns.

Those infected with measles but not linked to the outbreaks at Disneyland or Disney California Adventure recently had been in Indonesia, Azerbaijan, Qatar, India and Dubai, said Dr. Schuchat.

While the source of the Disney outbreaks isn’t known, public health officials believe it was started by someone visiting one of the parks who had been infected overseas, she said.Genetic analysis links the virus causing the upsurge to outbreaks in 14 nations, she noted.Dr. Schuchat stressed the importance of immunization and said the vaccine is safe and effective.  “This is not a problem of the measles vaccine not working,” she said. “This is a problem of the measles vaccine not being used.”

By: Betsy McKay, The Wall Street Journal
Reviewed / Posted by: Scott W Yates, MD, MBA, MS, FACP

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