As of December 5, 2013, 175 people in the United States have been reported as having Measles.
This year, Measles outbreaks have occurred in several states. One outbreak, in New York, is the largest outbreak in 15 years in the United States. An outbreak in North Carolina has also resulted in numerous cases.
Most of these people were not vaccinated or did not know their vaccination status. Measles is brought into the United States by un-vaccinated U.S. residents and foreign travelers who get infected when they are in other countries. They can infect others, which can lead to outbreaks in the United States.
Make sure your vaccinations are up-to-date, including when you are preparing to travel. And, if you plan to travel abroad with an infant or young child, be sure to talk with your child’s doctor about what is recommended for Measles vaccination of young travelers.
Most adults born before 1957 had measles as children. They might remember being sick for a few days with a rash and fever. And they might recall that other children in their school or neighborhood had measles at the same time. Some children developed severe complications, like pneumonia or encephalitis (swelling of the brain), or even died from measles.
Today, thanks to vaccines, very few children in the United States get measles. The number of people with Measles has decreased by more than 99% since a Measles vaccine was licensed in 1963. But, to keep people protected against Measles, we need to always have a high level of vaccination in the community.
Measles is still common in many countries—including many African, Asian, and European countries. So, measles can easily be brought into the United States by travelers or visitors who are infected. Measles is highly contagious and can spread quickly in areas and communities where people are not vaccinated.
Measles Can Be Serious
Complications from Measles can be serious. They occur more commonly in children younger than 5 years old and adults 20 years of age or older. For every 1,000 children who get Measles, one or two will die from the disease. In fact, worldwide, Measles is still a significant cause of vaccine-preventable death among children. In 2008, there were about 164,000 Measles deaths worldwide—that equals 450 deaths every day or 18 deaths every hour.
The CDC says the best protection against Measles is the MMR or MMRV Vaccine. However the vaccine in very controversial, as many believe the vaccine causes autism in children, therefore parents refuse to allow their children to be vaccinated.
Measles vaccine is usually given as part of a combination vaccine that provides protection against three diseases: Measles, Mumps, and Rubella (MMR). This vaccine is strongly endorsed by medical and public health experts as safe and effective.
CDC recommends that children get two doses—the first dose at 12 through 15 months of age and the second dose before entering school at 4 through 6 years of age.
Your child’s doctor may offer the MMRV vaccine, which is a combination vaccine that protects against Measles, Mumps, Rubella, and Varicella (chickenpox). MMRV vaccine is licensed for children 12 months through 12 years old. It may be used in place of MMR vaccine if a child needs to have Varicella vaccine in addition to Measles, Mumps, and Rubella vaccines. Your child’s doctor can help you decide which vaccine to use.
Anyone who is not protected against Measles is at risk of getting infected with Measles virus when they travel internationally. Check with your healthcare provider to see if you or your child (including children less than 12 months old) should be vaccinated before traveling.