THURSDAY, April 19 (HealthDay News) -- There were 222 cases and
17 outbreaks of the measles in the United States last year, more
than four times the usual annual rate, U.S. health authorities
"In 2011, we had the most number of reported measles in the U.S. in 15 years," said Dr. Anne Schuchat, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Disease at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In the prior decade, an average of 60 cases and four outbreaks
were reported annually.
As of last Friday, CDC had received reports of 27 cases of
measles for 2012, though "it is too soon in the year to know
whether this year will be as bad or worse than last year," said
Schuchat, who spoke at a news conference on Thursday.
The highly infectious illness seems to be making an unexpected
comeback. Measles was declared eliminated in 2000 after public
health measures successfully interrupted the transmission of
disease from person-to-person in the United States. The disease is
still endemic in many other parts of the world, however.
In fact, 200 of the 222 U.S. cases in 2011 were related to
foreign travel, with 72 of the cases emerging in people who had
recently traveled abroad, more than half of them to Europe, which
has experienced its own explosion in the disease in recent
Authorities weren't able to determine the source in the other 22
Although the United States has a high vaccination rate of 90
percent, "measles is extremely infectious and very good at finding
those few people who aren't vaccinated," Schuchat warned.
Of the 196 U.S. residents who had measles in 2011, 166 were
unvaccinated or didn't know if they'd been vaccinated, although 141
were eligible to be vaccinated, the CDC report found.
Sixty-six percent of the 141 who were eligible for vaccination
were between the ages of 16 months through 19 years, the time span
a person is most likely to be vaccinated. Three-quarters had not
received the vaccine because of a philosophical, religious or
There have been no deaths from measles in the United States
since 2008, noted Dr. Jane Seward, deputy director of the CDC's
Division of Viral Diseases. But one of every three people who
contracted the disease last year had to be hospitalized.
Measles is extremely contagious, with symptoms including a
total-body rash along with flu-like symptoms such as cough and
fever. The CDC and other public health authorities strongly
recommend that all individuals keep up to date with their
vaccinations, especially if they are planning to travel abroad.
The CDC recommends that all children receive two doses of the
measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine, the first at 12-15 months of
age and the second at 4-6 years. Very young infants can get
vaccinated earlier if they are going to be traveling abroad or if
they are going to be in contact with an international visitor.
"Measles is preventable and unvaccinated people put themselves and others at risk for measles and its complications, particularly those who are too young to be vaccinated who can sometimes have the worst complications," Schuchat said.
Authorities are particularly worried with the summer travel
season looming and many Americans planning to attend the Olympics
Find out more about measles at the
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