Thursday November 21, 2019

Measles Cases in US Cross 1,000 Mark for 2019

As of last week, the total for 2019 had already reached the highest point in any year since 1992, when there were 2,237 cases of the infectious disease reported

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FILE - A man walks past a sign advising about a measles outbreak in the Brooklyn borough of New York, April 25, 2019. VOA

The number of measles cases confirmed in the United States in 2019 has reached 1,001, a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report said this week. As of last week, the total for 2019 had already reached the highest point in any year since 1992, when there were 2,237 cases of the infectious disease reported.

“The Department of Health and Human Services has been deeply engaged in promoting the safety and effectiveness of vaccines, amid concerning signs that there are pockets of undervaccination around the country,” Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said in a statement Thursday.

Azar reinforced the importance of vaccines in combating the outbreak.

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FILE – A vial of the measles, mumps, and rubella virus (MMR) vaccine is pictured at the International Community Health Services clinic in Seattle. VOA

“We cannot say this enough: Vaccines are a safe and highly effective public health tool that can prevent this disease and end the current outbreak. I encourage all Americans to talk to your doctor about what vaccines are recommended to protect you, your family, and your community from measles and other vaccine-preventable diseases,” he said.

Measles is highly contagious. The disease is usually spread through sneezing and coughing. It can linger in the air for up to two hours. Cases have been reported in more than half of U.S. states. New York has had the highest total, with nearly 700 cases reported this year.

Most of those cases have been in Orthodox Jewish communities in Brooklyn and Queens, where there are low vaccination rates. The New York City Department of Health said that as of Monday, 566 cases had been confirmed in those areas since September.

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Los Angeles County Department of Public Health experts, Muntu Davis, Health Officer, left, and Director Dr. Barbara Ferrer answer questions regarding the measles response and the quarantine orders during a news conference in Los Angeles Friday, April 26, 2019. VOA

Clark County in Washington state had the second-largest outbreak in the U.S. this year with more than 70 cases reported. According to the CDC, the outbreaks in New York City and Rockland County, N.Y., threaten to nullify the nation’s status of having officially eliminated measles.

ALSO READ: U.S. Measles Outbreak Raises Concerns About Immunity in Adults

“That loss would be a huge blow for the nation and erase the hard work done by all levels of public health. The measles elimination goal, first announced in 1966 and accomplished in 2000, was a monumental task,” the CDC said in a May press release.

“Before widespread use of the measles vaccine, an estimated 3 [million] to 4 million people got measles each year in the United States, along with an estimated 400 to 500 deaths and 48,000 hospitalizations,” the release said. (VOA)

Next Story

World’s Largest Measles Outbreak Kills More than 4,000 People in Congo this Year

The Central African nation is also battling an Ebola outbreak that has killed about half that number since August 2018

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FILE - A child is immunized against measles at a clinic in eastern Congo, Nov. 13, 2008. VOA

More than 4,000 people have died in Congo this year in the world’s largest measles outbreak, the United Nations children’s agency said Wednesday.

The Central African nation is also battling an Ebola outbreak that has killed about half that number since August 2018.

Since January, more than 200,000 cases of measles have been reported across Congo, UNICEF said. More than 140,000 involve children under 5, who also make up nearly 90 percent of deaths.

“We’re facing this alarming situation because millions of Congolese children miss out on routine immunization and lack access to health care when they fall sick,” said the UNICEF country representative, Edouard Beigbeder. “On top of that, a weak health system, insecurity, community mistrust of vaccines and vaccinators, and logistical challenges all contribute to a huge number of unvaccinated children at risk of contracting the disease.”

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FILE – Health workers wearing protective gear check on a patient isolated in a plastic cube at an Ebola treatment center in Beni, Congo, July 13, 2019. VOA

Health officials are facing many of the same challenges in the Ebola outbreak in eastern Congo that has killed more than 2,000 people. Multiple armed groups have been fighting over the mineral-rich land for decades and threatening residents. The insecurity has led to mistrust of authorities, including health workers.

UNICEF said health workers were rushing additional medical kits to help care for more than 110,000 people infected with the measles, a highly contagious and potentially deadly virus. More than 1.4 million children have been vaccinated this year.

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The U.N. agency said Congo’s government will launch a vaccination campaign at the end of October to make sure children in every province are vaccinated. (VOA)