Monday May 20, 2019

US Confirms Highest Level of Measles Cases Since Elimination of Virus in 2000

"The longer these outbreaks continue, the greater the chance measles will again get a sustained foothold in the United States," the CDC warned in a statement

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Steve Sierzega receives a measles, mumps and rubella vaccine at the Rockland County Health Department in Pomona, New York, March 27, 2019. VOA

The United States has confirmed 695 measles cases so far this year, the highest level since the country declared it had eliminated the virus in 2000, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Wednesday.

The resurgence, which public health officials blamed in part on the spread of misinformation about the safety of vaccines, has been concentrated mainly in Washington state and New York with outbreaks that began late last year.

“The longer these outbreaks continue, the greater the chance measles will again get a sustained foothold in the United States,” the CDC warned in a statement. It said outbreaks can spread out of control in communities with lower-than-normal vaccination rates.

Although the disease was eliminated from the country in 2000, meaning the virus was no longer continually present year round, outbreaks still happen via travelers coming from countries where measles is still common, the CDC says.

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Materials are seen left at demonstration by people opposed to childhood vaccination after officials in Rockland County, a New York City suburb, banned children not vaccinated against measles from public spaces. VOA

As of Wednesday, the number of measles cases so far this year exceeds the 667 cases reported in all of 2014, which had been the highest annual number recorded since the elimination in 2000. The virus has been recorded in 22 states so far in 2019, the CDC said.

The virus can lead to deadly complications, but no measles deaths have been reported in the latest outbreaks. Responding to the new figures, U.S. Health Secretary Alex Azar urged greater vaccination, saying in a statement that the vaccine’s “safety has been firmly established over many years.”

“The United States is seeing a resurgence of measles, a disease that had once been effectively eliminated from our country,” he said.

Measles has been on the rise globally. More than 110,000 cases were reported in the first three months of 2019, according to the World Health Organization, based on provisional data. That is a 300 percent increase compared with the same period the previous year.

 

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FILE – 15-month-old August Goepferd received the measles, mumps and rubella booster shot at a clinic at Children’s Minnesota in Minneapolis. VOA

‘Preventable occurrence’

The largest outbreak has been in New York City where officials said at least 390 cases have been recorded since October, mostly among children in Orthodox Jewish communities in Brooklyn, making it the city’s worst outbreak since 1991. That total included 61 cases recorded in the last six days, of which two were pregnant women, the city’s health department said on Wednesday.

The CDC echoed city health officials in saying this outbreak was fueled by misinformation being spread about the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine. A vocal fringe of parents opposes vaccines, believing, contrary to scientific studies, that ingredients in them can cause autism.

Nationwide, the number of children getting vaccinated has remained “high and stable” for several years, the CDC said. New York City’s Health Department took the unusual step earlier this month of issuing an emergency order requiring unvaccinated people in affected neighborhoods to get the MMR vaccine unless they could otherwise show they had immunity.

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FILE – A vial of measles, mumps and rubella vaccine and an information sheet is seen at Boston Children’s Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts, Feb. 26, 2015. VOA

It has issued civil summonses to 12 people it said have defied the order. They will each face a fine of up to $1,000 if found to be noncompliant at a hearing.

ALSO READ: Measles Could be Completely Wiped Off, Instead it’s Making a Comeback

Dr. Amesh Adalja, an infectious disease expert with the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, called the resurgence a “completely preventable occurrence.”

“We are fighting a disease now in 2019 that should have been off the table in the 1960s with the development of the vaccine,” he said. “It should be viewed as an embarrassment that so many Americans have turned away from vaccines that we are having a record year for measles.” (VOA)

Next Story

More than 1,000 Students, Staff Members Sent Back From LA Universities Because of Measles Outbreak

Those under the quarantine were instructed to stay at home and avoid contact with others, though it wasn’t clear how those orders might be enforced or what penalties violators might face

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People move about the campus of the University of California, Los Angeles, April 26, 2019. Some students and employees possibly exposed to measles at two Los Angeles universities were still quarantined on campus or told to stay home Friday, but the number was dwindling. VOA

More than 1,000 students and staff members at two Los Angeles universities were quarantined on campus or sent home this week in one of the most sweeping efforts yet by public health authorities to contain the spread of measles in the U.S., where cases have reached a 25-year high.

By Friday afternoon, two days after Los Angeles County ordered the precautions, about 325 of those affected had been cleared to return after proving their immunity to the disease, through either medical records or tests, health officials said.

The action at the University of University of California, Los Angeles, and California State University, Los Angeles, which together have more than 65,000 students, reflected the seriousness with which public health officials are taking the nation’s outbreak.

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FILE – A measles, mumps and rubella vaccine on a countertop at a pediatrics clinic in Greenbrae, Calif., Feb. 6, 2015. The U.S. has counted more measles cases in the first two months of this year than in all of 2017. VOA

Those under the quarantine were instructed to stay at home and avoid contact with others, though it wasn’t clear how those orders might be enforced or what penalties violators might face.

“Measles actually kills people. So we have to take that really seriously,” said Dr. Armand Dorian, chief medical officer at USC Verdugo Hills Hospital.

Measles cases climb

The number of measles cases in the U.S. has climbed to nearly 700 this year, including five in Los Angeles County and 38 altogether in California. The surge is blamed largely on parents not getting their children vaccinated because of misinformation about the supposed dangers.

Cal State-LA reported 875 students, staff, faculty and visitors were placed under quarantine after possibly being exposed to measles earlier this month. About 250 had been cleared by Friday after proving they are immune to the disease. At UCLA, 129 students and faculty were quarantined. All but 46 had been cleared by Friday.

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Materials are seen left at demonstration by people opposed to childhood vaccination after officials in Rockland County, a New York City suburb, banned children not vaccinated against measles from public spaces. VOA

Cal State-LA is primarily a commuter school, while many UCLA students live on campus. Some UCLA students were provided a quarantine area to stay in, university officials said, though they gave no details. Only one person remained there Friday.

Those covered by the quarantine were singled out based on their possible exposure to either an infected UCLA student who had attended classes in two buildings over three days earlier this month, or a person with measles who visited a Cal State-LA library on April 11, officials said.

Given the amount of time a person can remain contagious, officials said the quarantine would end at UCLA on Tuesday and at Cal State-LA on Thursday.

Lawmakers take action

Around the country, lawmakers in California, New York, Washington state and Oregon have responded to the outbreak by moving to crack down on exemptions to vaccinating children. On Friday, President Donald Trump urged everyone to get vaccinated.

Most of the cases are centered in two ultra-Orthodox Jewish communities in New York, one in Brooklyn, the other in suburban Rockland County.

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FILE – 15-month-old August Goepferd received the measles, mumps and rubella booster shot at a clinic at Children’s Minnesota in Minneapolis. VOA

In Rockland County, officials declared a state of emergency and at one point tried to bar unvaccinated children from schools and other public places, but a judge overturned the order.

Authorities ordered mandatory vaccinations earlier their month in the affected Brooklyn neighborhoods and threatened fines of $1,000. City officials said earlier this week that 12 people had been issued summonses.

ALSO READ: US President Donald Trump Urges Vaccination Amid Measles Outbreak

Measles usually causes fever and an all-over rash but in a small number of cases can lead to deadly complications such as pneumonia and swelling of the brain.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends the vaccine for everyone older than 1 year, except for people who had the disease as children. Those who have had measles are immune. (VOA)