Measles cases concern officials

Michigan is among 16 states that have reported cases of measles in 2013 through mid-August, according to a recent report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The once common disease is now a rarity in United States, but that progress may be threatened by the high incidence of measles elsewhere in the world and insufficient levels of immunizations in some communities, said Michigan Department of Community Health officials.

“Measles is highly contagious and is by no means a trivial disease. It can result in hospitalization, pneumonia, encephalitis, and death,” said Dr. Matthew Davis, Chief Medical Executive with the Michigan Department of Community Health (MDCH).

“We need to achieve and sustain high levels of vaccination in Michigan and across the United States,” Dr. Davis said in a statement. ‘Vaccination is the best way to prevent measles outbreaks from occurring and to prevent this disease from spreading widely in our communities.”

According to the CDC, there were 159 cases reported nationally as of Aug. 24, 2013. From 20012012, the average number of measles cases reported nationally per year was 60. Michigan reported two of the cases this year, and is currently investigating another.

Of the two Michigan cases, both involved infants who were exposed to the disease when they traveled out of the country. They have since recovered.

Both of Michigan’s cases involved infants younger than 12 months of age.

The first of two routine childhood measles vaccine doses is given at 12 months of age, but current recommendations call for infants as young as 6 months who will be traveling outside of the U.S. to be vaccinated against measles.

This recommendation means that parents can begin protecting their children as early as 6 months of age if they have plans to travel internationally.

Nearly all of the 159 cases nationally were “import-associated,” meaning that they were directly or indirectly linked to a case or an exposure in another country.

The majority of cases, 82 percent, occurred among persons who were not vaccinated, with another 8 percent in persons with an unknown vaccination status.

Measles vaccine has been routinely in use and recommended for children in the U.S. since the 1960s. The CDC report also identified 8 outbreaks among the 159 cases, including one involving 58 cases, the largest outbreak nationally since 1996.

“Measles vaccine is highly effective and very safe, as numerous studies have confirmed the vaccine’s effectiveness and safety record,” continued Dr. Davis.

“People who vaccinate themselves and their children are not only protecting the health their families, but also the community and state of Michigan as a whole,” he said.

Below are some questions and answers about measles from the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention:

What is measles?

Measles is an infectious viral disease that occurs most often in the late winter and spring. It begins with a fever that lasts for a couple of days, followed by a cough, runny nose, and conjunctivitis (pink eye). A rash starts on the face and upper neck, spreads down the back and trunk, then extends to the arms and hands, as well as the legs and feet. After about 5 days, the rash fades the same order in which it appeared.

How can I catch measles?

Measles is highly contagious. Infected people are usually contagious from about 4 days before their rash starts to 4 days afterwards. The measles virus resides in the mucus in the nose and throat of infected people. When they sneeze or cough, droplets spray into the air and the droplets remain active and contagious on infected surfaces for up to 2 hours.

How serious is the disease?

Measles itself is unpleasant, but the complications are dangerous. Six to 20 percent of the people who get the disease will get an ear infection, diarrhea, or even pneumonia. One out of 1000 people with measles will develop inflammation of the brain, and about one out of 1000 will die.

Why is vaccination necessary?

In the decade before the measles vaccination program began, an estimated 34 million persons in the United States were infected each year, of whom 400500 died, 48,000 were hospitalized, and another 1,000 developed chronic disability from measles encephalitis. Widespread use of measles vaccine has led to a greater than 99% reduction in measles cases in the United States compared with the pre-vaccine era.

However, measles is still common in other countries. The virus is highly contagious and can spread rapidly in areas where vaccination is not widespread. It is estimated that in 2006 there were 242,000 measles deaths worldwide-that equals about 663 deaths every day or 27 deaths every hour

As an adult, do I need the MMR vaccine?

You do not need the MMR vaccine if you:

– Had blood tests that show you are immune to measles, mumps, and rubella.

– Are someone born before 1957.

– Already had two doses of MMR or one dose of MMR plus a second dose of measles vaccine.

– Already had one dose of MMR and are not at high risk of measles exposure.

You should get the measles vaccine if you are not among the categories listed above, and

– Are a college student, trade school student, or other student beyond high school.

– Work in a hospital or other medical facility.

– Travel internationally, or are a passenger on a cruise ship.

– Are a woman of childbearing age.