Measles Outbreaks in the US: A Threat to Public Health and the Elimination of a Preventable Disease

Number of Measles Cases in Mid-March Exceeds Total for Previous Year

The United States is experiencing an outbreak of measles, a highly contagious disease that was once thought to have been eliminated from the country by 2000. As of late last week, there were at least 64 cases reported nationwide, which is more than the total number of cases reported for all of last year.

Jesse Ehrenfeld, president of the American Medical Association, expressed concern about the decline in vaccination rates against measles in the US since 2019. This trend puts more people at risk of illness, disability, and death from the disease.

Measles is caused by a virus that is typically found in the nose or throat and can easily spread through coughing, sneezing or talking. Infected individuals can release infectious droplets into the air that others can breathe in, leading to transmission of the disease. Symptoms include fever, cough, runny nose, sore throat and watery eyes followed by a red rash that covers the body.

Complications from measles include dehydration, ear infections, croup and pneumonia. Individuals are usually vaccinated against measles in early childhood with two doses of the MMR vaccine which provides lifetime protection. However recent studies show lower vaccination rates among kindergartners putting them at risk for measles infection during this school year potentially erasing progress made towards eliminating it as a preventable disease.

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