19.02.11 Measles 2019 Outbreak

February 11, 2019
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Nearly 20 years after measles declared “eradicated” in the United States, several states report outbreaks.

Why Now?

“Measles can be so contagious that you can be in a room, and if you’re susceptible, two hours after someone with measles left, and still get the disease.”
Dr. Alan Melnick, director of public health for Clark County, the site of the measles outbreak in Washington state. Most of the cases are children under 10. The vaccination rate for school age children is 78%, much lower than recommended 90-95% to create community or herd immunity.

Measles: Defined

  • highly contagious virus spread like the common cold.
  • early symptoms mimic a cold: runny nose, cough.
  • unique symptoms: high fever, rash with distinct tiny red dots.
  • particularly dangerous for children, can cause ear infections that lead to hearing loss, brain swelling, or even death.

The Vaccine In America

  • Public vaccine introduced 1968.
  • 1 dose given until an outbreak among vaccinated kids occurred in 1989, prompting doctors to recommend a 2nd dose.
  • Current recommendation: children get their first dose of the vaccine at 12-15 months & then between ages of 4-6 years old.
  • 1 dose = 93% effective.
  • 2nd dose = 97% effective.

What’s Going On:

  • 10 states w/measles cases.
  • WA State: declared state emergency; reportedly an international traveler brought measles into a community with low vaccination rates.
  • NJ/NY: outbreak in Orthodox Jewish community linked to international travel.
  • Most recent state w/cases: Texas.

Why Now?

“These resurgences (of measles) have been attributed to various causes, including refusal to vaccinate, incomplete vaccination series, waning immunity, and imported cases.

Medical researcher & author CL Ventola.

Between 2010 – 2018, the CDC reported an average of 217 measles cases every year; some years as low as 55 cases or as high as 667. So far in 2019, 79 cases have been reported in January alone. The states with cases: CA, CO, CT, GA, IL, NJ, NY, OR, TX, & WA.

by Jenna Lee,