More people have been infected with measles in the United States during the first four months of this year than in the first four months of the past 18 years, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
According to the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, 13 outbreaks and 129 cases have been recorded this year.
“Because of the success of the measles vaccine, many clinicians have never seen measles and may not be able to recognize its features,” Dr. Julia Sammons wrote in a commentary published Thursday in Annals of Internal Medicine.
Measles is one of the most contagious infectious diseases. Symptoms include: fever, cough and conjunctivitis and rash. In rare cases, measles can lead to pneumonia and brain infections, which can be fatal.
For most of the last decade, the nation only saw 60 cases a year. But since 2010, the average has jumped to nearly 160.
There has been a small, but growing, trend of parents seeking exemptions for their children from school-entry vaccination requirements for religious or philosophical reasons. Other parents have tried to space out, or delay, measles vaccinations because of fears that the shot will trigger autism or other problems. Does this remind of Jenny McCarthy vs. Science?
Measles outbreaks are more common in communities where such beliefs are more common, experts say. “It’s often concentrated there. Folks who think similarly tend to live in the same neighborhood or attend the same religious organization,” Schaffner said.
The CDC recommends that children get two doses of the measles vaccine beginning at 12 months, with the second dose between the ages of 4 and 6 years old. Infants 6 to 11 months old should get the vaccine before international travel.
Also, the CDC recommends that all U.S. residents born after 1956 ensure that they are still immune to measles or receive a new MMR vaccination, particularly if they expect to travel outside North or South America.