The Number Of Measles Infections In The U.S. Are The Second Highest Since 2000

In the first three months of 2019, the U.S. has seen the second highest number of measles cases since the viral infection was eliminated endemically in 2000.

Already this year, 387 individual cases of measles have been confirmed across fifteen states, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

This number is of particular concern given that over the course of 2018, 372 cases of measles were reported.

The 2019 data is updated weekly so these preliminary numbers are likely to increase throughout the year.

The CDC defines an outbreak of measles as three or more cases from one jurisdiction; currently Rockland County and NYC in New York, Santa Cruz County and Butte County in California, and jurisdictions in both Washington and New Jersey are experiencing outbreaks of the infection.

Pediatrician vaccinates small child. Source: Getty.

Measles is a viral infection that causes a distinctive rash, as well as a cough, runny nose, diarrhoea and ear infections. The disease can be dangerous for babies, children, and those with compromised immune systems -- for children under five-years-old infected by measles between 2001 and 2013 in the US, 28 percent needed to be hospitalised for treatment.

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It is an extremely contagious infection and can be contracted by simply entering the same room as an infected person up to two hours after they have left.

The spread of measles is prevented by the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine, which has saved an estimated 17.1 million lives since 2000, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).

In the decade prior to the 1963 development of the MMR vaccine, 48,000 people were hospitalised and an estimated 400 people died as a result of measles infections annually.

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The CDC state that outbreaks of measles can be caused by an increased number of unvaccinated travellers who spread the disease after overseas trips, as well as concentrated communities of people who avoid vaccination.

In 2014, the US experienced the highest number of measles infections since 2000, with 667 reported cases. These outbreaks were traced to unvaccinated Amish communities in Ohio, as well as infections introduced by travellers from the Philippines.

Most US states allow parents to opt out of vaccinating their children for religious reasons and 18 states allow parents to reject vaccination on philosophical grounds.

While Australia has seen multiple public health alerts about infected international travellers since the beginning of the year, vaccination rates among the general population are high, meaning that Australia has largely avoided outbreaks that public health bodies are witnessing in other developed nations.

Celebrity chef Pete Evans shared an anti-vaxxer podcast to his 1.5 million followers. Photo: Facebook.

However, 300 cases are predicted by the end of 2019 in Australia based on current trends, which may make this year the second highest for infection numbers since 1997.

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