The United States officially eliminated measles in the United States in 2000 but according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) the current outbreak is the worst since then, and the almost 700 cases already confirmed in 2019 means the country could in a matter of months lose its “measles free” status.
This means the U.S. would join Venezuela as the only two countries in North and South America with that status, according to a PBS report that called on the expertise of Stephen Morse, director of the infectious disease epidemiology program at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health and Dr. William Moss, an infectious disease epidemiologist and pediatrician at Johns Hopkins’ Bloomberg School of Public Health.
The states with the highest number of outbreaks are Washington and New York, and PBS reported that on Friday two colleges in Los Angeles quarantined more than 1,000 students and staff members, sending them home or keeping them in their campus quarters until after the incubation period, which is typically 10 to 12 days.
Experts say one of the challenges is that measles is an extremely contagious disease that can be spread between an infected person and another person in the same room.
In most cases, measles causes fever and rash, but it can have much more serious repercussions, including deafness, neurological damage, and even death.
The CDC recommends children beginning at age 2 get a series of two measles vaccinations, which have about a 97 percent efficiency rate.
Experts say that people who have not been immunized and global travel are partly to blame for the latest outbreak, including children whose parents refuse to vaccinate their children because of unproven claims that some vaccines could cause autism.
And with the disease once more in the spotlight, people have questions about who should be vaccinated aside from young children.
Up to 10 percent of the 695 confirmed measles cases in the current outbreak occurred in people who received one or two doses of the vaccine, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
People vaccinated in the United States since 1989 would most likely have received two doses of the combined measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) shot under federal guidelines, and that is still considered the standard for protection.
Anyone vaccinated between 1963 and 1989 would likely have received only one dose, with many people immunized in the earlier years receiving an inactivated version of the virus. Americans born before 1957 are considered immune as they would have been exposed to the virus directly in an outbreak.
“The World Health Organization says the 93 percent to 95 percent threshold is required for herd immunity, the point at which everyone in the community is protected from the virus,” Fox Business reported.
Kevin Sumner, the president of the Middle Brook Regional Health Commission in New Jersey, told Fox Business that the U.S. is in the 70 percent range.
The CDC reported on Wednesday that 695 cases were reported in 22 states. The CDC reported on Monday that 626 cases of measles had been reported in 22 states — up from 555 cases in 20 states one week ago.
The states reporting cases to CDC include Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Texas, Tennessee, and Washington.
The CDC and Health and Human Services are holding a conference call with reporters on Monday to discuss the latest findings.
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