Wednesday, 16 October, 2019

USA holds on to measles elimination status

People with measles typically develop symptoms around 10 days after being exposed to the virus Camera Icon People with measles typically develop symptoms around 10 days after being exposed to the virus. Credit David Crosling AAPIMAGE
Gustavo Carr | 08 October, 2019, 21:39

There have been 1,249 confirmed cases reported of measles from January 1, 2019 to Tuesday, October 1. But the disease is highly contagious and requires communities to maintain measles vaccination levels between 93% and 95% to prevent its spread.

Seven new cases of measles were recorded in the USA last week, federal health officials on Monday.

In related news, 74,698 flu-like cases were reported last week, down 6.2 percent from the previous week and lower than the epidemic threshold, the CDC said.

"New Zealand now has a measles outbreak bigger than all of the USA, is exporting cases overseas, and yet we still don't have enough vaccines to ensure everyone is protected".

As measles outbreaks continue to occur in countries around the world, there always remains a risk of measles being imported into the USA, the CDC said.

Complications following measles can be serious and include ear infections and pneumonia in about 10 per cent of cases. "We will remain vigilant in protecting all New Yorkers from measles and other risky vaccine-preventable diseases". The most recent cases were linked to travelers bringing the virus back from foreign countries including Israel, Ukraine, and the Philippines, where large measles outbreaks are occurring. A significant factor contributing to outbreaks has been misinformation in some communities about the safety of the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine.

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The New York outbreak started on October 1, 2018.

New York's almost year-long outbreak had put the U.S.at risk of losing elimination status for the disease that is highly contagious and once killed several hundred people annually in the United States. Zucker said state health officials are remaining "vigilant" and investigating new measles cases that are unrelated to the state's initial outbreaks. Also each year, among reported cases, an estimated 400 to 500 people died, 48,000 were hospitalized, and 1,000 suffered encephalitis (swelling of the brain) from measles.

"We want to emphasize that vaccines are safe", said CDC Director Robert R. Redfield, MD.

World Health Organization says that vaccinations prevents 2-3 million deaths a year, but that up to 1.5 million more deaths could be prevented globally if vaccinations were more widely understood and distributed. "The prevalence of measles is a global challenge, and the best way to stop this and other vaccine preventable diseases from gaining a foothold in the U.S.is to accept vaccines".

Before the measles vaccine was introduced in the USA, almost all children got measles by the time they were 15 years of age.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) yesterday urged people to take preventive measures against infectious diseases, especially dengue fever, Chikungunya fever and measles, during the four-day Double Ten National Day holiday this week.