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Measles Resurgence In The US: Rising Cases, Vaccination Challenges, And COVID-19 Impact

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Measles Resurgence In The US

(CTN News) – Despite the eradication of measles in the US in 2000, recent reports indicate a resurgence of the disease across the country.

As of February 22, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has documented 35 cases in various states, raising concerns about the potential for a larger outbreak.

The CDC’s January alert highlighted 23 confirmed cases between December 1, 2023, and January 23, 2024, with a majority affecting eligible but unvaccinated children and adolescents.

Additionally, seven cases were linked to international travelers, emphasizing the risk posed to those who are unvaccinated or undervaccinated.

Dr. Tina Tan, president-elect of the Infectious Diseases Society of America, underscored the speed at which measles can spread in our interconnected world, emphasizing the importance of vigilance among clinicians.

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Global Impact: Measles Outbreaks in Countries with Ongoing Cases

Countries with ongoing outbreaks, such as Yemen, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, India, Ethiopia, and Russia, have reported the highest case numbers, making international travel a potential source of infection.

The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) experienced its first confirmed measles case in December, which led to further infections due to a lapse in recommended isolation measures.

The resurgence of measles in recent years follows its elimination as an endemic disease, with over 1200 cases reported across 31 states in 2019.

The joint report by the CDC and the World Health Organization in November 2023 highlighted an 18% increase in global measles cases and a 43% rise in measles-related deaths compared to the previous year.

Measles is highly contagious, with direct contact unnecessary for transmission, making vaccination crucial.

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Vaccination Strategies

The CDC recommends vaccination for individuals aged 12 months or older, with the first dose administered as early as 6 months for those traveling abroad.

The measles-mumps-rubella vaccine is approximately 93% effective with one dose, rising to about 97% with two doses, providing lifelong immunity.

Despite these recommendations, vaccination rates in the US have fallen below the threshold required for herd immunity, as revealed by the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report published in January 2023.

The report indicated a vaccination rate of only 93% among kindergarteners for the 2021-2022 school year, below the 95% target for population-level protection.

Contributing to the measles resurgence is the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, which resulted in the delay or missed administration of 61 million doses of measles vaccines between 2020 and 2022, according to the CDC.

Dr. Paul Offit, director of the Vaccine Education Center at CHOP, expressed concern that the success of the measles vaccine may lead to complacency, as people may not perceive the threat due to a lack of visible cases.

Looking ahead to 2024, there are apprehensions that current vaccination rates, especially among kindergarteners, may contribute to increased measles outbreaks.

Dr. Lori Handy emphasized the need for a tailored approach to address specific hesitancies within communities, with strong recommendations from clinicians being pivotal to enhancing vaccination rates.

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