Measles is still around; rate in 2011 was highest in 15 years

Measles virus (Photo by Scott Camazine/CDC/Getty Images)

In 2000, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention declared measles had been eliminated in the United States. But last year, the nation had the most cases of the infectious disease since 1997.

A report released last week shows there were 222 cases of measles and 17 measles outbreaks in 2011. In a typical year, there are usually just 50 to 60 cases. This year, there have already been 25 cases.

“Of the 222 reported cases, 50 percent were associated with the 17 outbreaks and 90 percent were associated with importations from foreign countries — 26 percent from U.S. residents traveling abroad and 10 percent from foreign visitors,” reports Alexandra Sifferlin for Time magazine.

Each case is treated with intense investigation because of the highly contagious nature of the virus. “You can catch measles just by being in a room where someone with measles has been, even if they left,” said Dr. Anne Schuchat, director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diesease. “It’s serious; one out of three people who got it last year had to be hospitalized.” No one died, however.

Of the 196 U.S. residents who contracted the virus last year, 166 had not been or did not know if they had been vaccinated. More than 80 percent of them were eligible for vaccine.

“Many people think diseases like measles are gone and that they do not need to vaccinate themselves or their children,” Sifferlin reports. “But the CDC warns measles is still prevalent worldwide. Globally, about 20 million people get measles each year.” (Read more)

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