Measles, still present after all these years!

Today, January 9, 2019, CNN reported an outbreak of measles in New York City. Why is this worth sharing with our families?

This photograph reveals the skin rash on a patient’s abdomen 3-days after the onset of a measles infection. The image was captured at New York Hospital-Cornell Medical Center.

This photograph reveals the skin rash on a patient’s abdomen 3-days after the onset of a measles infection. The image was captured at New York Hospital-Cornell Medical Center.

Measles is one of the most contagious illnesses affecting humans. Before measles immunization was available in 1963 virtually all children in the United States became infected before age 15, and an estimated 3 million to 4 million people were infected each year in the U.S.

By 2000, primarily due to very high immunization rates, measles was effectively eliminated in the Americas.

Since then, both in the U.S. and nationally, for a variety of reasons, immunization rates have stalled or declined. And measles cases have increased. In 2018 the U.S. saw 273 measles cases, the second highest number of cases in more than 20 years. Currently there are measles outbreaks in several European countries and Colombia. The World Health Organization reports a 30 percent increase in reported cases since 2016 and 110,000 deaths worldwide due to measles in 2017, all potentially preventable.

So the report of 112 confirmed cases in 2 counties of New York and 55 in New York City, the largest outbreak in years according to the New York Commissioner of Health, is worrisome that more, perhaps many more cases will occur, especially without expensive containment efforts by public health officials working to increase immunization rates around the current cases.

In Alaska measles vaccination rates in public schools for the two recommended doses of measles vaccine is 91.6 %, below the 95% rate felt to be necessary to prevent outbreaks. And an estimated 7% of kindergarteners have exemptions to vaccines, one of the highest rates in the nation.

If your children are not effectively vaccinated their risk for acquiring a life threatening measles infection is increasing. Serious risks of measles vaccine, which is highly effective, has been repeatedly demonstrated to be extraordinarily low and much safer than measles infection.

If you wish to receive a measles vaccine for your child or you are curious about care at ACP call us at 907-777-1800. For more, reliable information on measles and measles vaccine see: https://www.cdc.gov/measles/index.html.

Thad L Woodard, MD