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Measles near record in U.S. as cases continue to climb

ROCHESTER, Minn. (KTTC) – The spread of measles is accelerating in the U.S. with cases connected mostly by an outbreak in New York City.

Just four months into 2019, there are 626 confirmed cases of the highly infectious disease in 22 states, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This is the second-greatest number of cases reported in the U.S. since measles was eliminated in 2000, second only to the 667 cases reported during all of 2014.

“In the coming weeks, 2019 confirmed case numbers will likely surpass 2014 levels,” the CDC said in its update Monday.

“Measles can kill a person, measles can leave a person handicapped for life,” said Dr. Robert Jacobson, a pediatrician at Mayo Clinic. “Most people who get measles do recover but we have to remember that it’s very hard on young people.”

The best protection against measles is Measles-Mumps-Rubella (MMR) vaccine, according to the CDC. The first dose at 12 through 15 months of age. The second dose 4 through 6 years of age.

“We do ask that people who are in school, healthcare, or are international travelers to have two vaccinations, otherwise most adults are just fine with once vaccinations. This vaccine for measles is a remarkable one in that it gives life-long protection. 97 percent of people who have received two doses are immune for life,” said Dr. Jacobson.

Health officials say the two main reasons for the surge is an increase in international travel and lower vaccination rates.

“Every [measles] outbreak that we’ve had since 2000, started with someone traveling from another country where measles is occurring more endemically…these people then meet up with people who lack immunity. We have pockets of unvaccinated people, people for one reason or another who have not received the vaccine, and that’s what’s leading to the spread,” said Dr. Jacobson.

People born before 1957 were exposed to measles as children, giving them lifelong natural protection, officials say.

“People born before 1957 really can rely on the fact that in the old days, everyone got measles, and we had three to four million cases a year,” said Dr. Jacobson.

If you are not sure whether you’re protected against measles, health experts recommend seeking laboratory evidence of immunity. Although experts say, vaccination is the best preventative strategy in avoiding the measles, some people should not get MMR vaccine or wait. Source: Centers for Disease and Control Prevention)

Has any severe, life-threatening allergies. 

Is pregnant, or thinks she might be pregnant.

Has a weakened immune system due to disease (such as cancer or HIV/AIDS) or medical treatments (such as radiation, immunotherapy, steroids, or chemotherapy).

Has a parent, brother, or sister with a history of immune system problems.

Has ever had a condition that makes them bruise or bleed easily.

Has recently had a blood transfusion or received other blood products. You might be advised to postpone MMR vaccination for 3 months or more.

Has tuberculosis.

Has gotten any other vaccines in the past 4 weeks. Live vaccines given too close together might not work as well.

Is not feeling well. A mild illness, such as a cold, is usually not a reason to postpone a vaccination. Someone who is moderately or severely ill should probably wait. Your doctor can advise you.

States that have reported measles cases: 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.

Most of the Empire State cases have been unvaccinated people in Orthodox Jewish communities.

Symptoms of Measles (Source: Mayo Clinic)

Fever

Dry cough

Runny nose

Sore throat

Inflamed eyes (conjunctivitis)

Tiny white spots with bluish-white centers on a red background found inside the mouth on the inner lining of the cheek — also called Koplik’s spots

A skin rash made up of large, flat blotches that often flow into one another

Linda Ha

Reporter | @LindaHaTV | lha@kttc.com

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