"The groundwork of all happiness is health." - Leigh Hunt

“Not a good start”

March 14, 2024 – Just over two months into 2024, measles cases within the United States aren't looking great.

The recent surge in cases within the U.S. is linked to unvaccinated travelers, lower-than-ideal vaccination rates and misinformation, experts said.

The CDC has identified 45 cases measles in 17 jurisdictions across the United States. As of March seventh This was reported by the Federal Health Office Measles cases in Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, New York City, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Washington.

As for the 45 cases, “that's almost as many as we had in the entire calendar year of 2023,” said Dr. Sarah Lim, a medical specialist with the Minnesota Department of Health. “So we really didn’t get off to a good start.” (To illustrate, there have been 58 officially reported cases of measles last 12 months.)

Chicago has measles Breakout this week – with eight cases reported to date. All but one case was linked to a migrant child in a city shelter. Given the potential for rapid spread – measles is comparatively rare here but potentially very serious – the CDC has dispatched a team of experts to analyze the situation and help prevent this outbreak from growing further.

Sometimes fatal

About 30% of youngsters have symptoms of measles and about 25% are hospitalized. Complications include diarrhea, a rash all around the body, ear infections that could cause everlasting deafness, and pneumonia. Pneumonia with measles will be so serious that one in 20 affected children dies. Measles also can cause an inflammation of the brain called encephalitis, sometimes resulting in epilepsy or everlasting brain damage, in about one in 1,000 children.

Similar to long-COVID, some effects may persist beyond early infection. For example, measles can “erase the immune memory that protects you from other bacterial and viral pathogens,” Lim said at a media briefing sponsored by the Infectious Diseases Society of America. This susceptibility to other infections can last as long as three years after the early infection, she noted.

Overall, between 1 and three infected people per thousand die from measles, mostly children.

Misinformation about vaccines plays a task

Vaccine misinformation is partly the rationale for the surge, and while many cases are mild, “t“This can be a devastating disease,” said Joshua Barocas, MD, associate professor of medication within the departments of general internal medicine and infectious diseases on the University of Colorado School of Medicine.

“I am a parent myself. “Parents are inundated with tons of information, some of it misinformation,” he said on the media briefing. “If you are a parent who is undecided [about vaccination]Given the outbreak potential and the outbreaks we are seeing, now is the time.”

Misinformation about vaccines is “about as old as vaccines themselves,” Lim said. Concerns concerning the MMR vaccinewhich also includes protection against measles, aren't latest.

“It seems to change at regular intervals – new things emerge, new ideas emerge, and the problem is that it's like the old saying: 'A lie can travel halfway around the world before the truth can take hold.'” Social media helps to amplify misinformation about vaccines, she said.

“You don't want to scare people unnecessarily – but it's incredibly important to remind people what these childhood diseases really look like and what they do,” Lim said. “It's so much easier to avoid stories about possible side effects of vaccines than stories about parents whose children were in the intensive care unit with pneumonia for two weeks due to a severe case of measles.”

Barocas said misinformation is usually intentional, sometimes not. Regardless, “our job as infectious disease physicians and public health professionals is not necessarily to spread the counter-narrative, but to continue to advocate for what we know works based on the best science and evidence.”

“And there is no reason to believe that vaccinations are anything but helpful when it comes to preventing measles,” he noted.

In most cases, lifelong protection

The MMR vaccine, typically given in two doses in childhood, provides 93% after which 97% protection against the highly contagious virus. In the 2022 to 2023 school 12 months, the measles vaccination rate amongst kindergarten children nationwide was 92%. That feels like a high rate, Lim said, “but because measles is so contagious, vaccination rates need to be 95% or higher to curb transmission.”

One person with measles can infect between 12 and 18 other people, she said. When an infected person coughs or sneezes, tiny droplets spread into the air. “And if someone is unvaccinated and exposed, nine times out of 10 that person will develop the disease.” She said that due to the high transmission rate, measles often spreads inside families and infects multiple children.

If you understand that you've got not been vaccinated but have been exposed, we recommend that you just get vaccinated against measles as soon as possible. “There is a recommendation to get the MMR vaccine within 72 hours as post-exposure prophylaxis,” Lim said. “That's a narrow window, but if you can do that, the risk of getting measles is significantly reduced.”

If you're undecided or don't remember being vaccinated against measles as a young child, your doctor may have the option to envision state registries for a solution. If that doesn't help, revaccination with the MMR vaccine as an adult is an option. “There’s no shame in getting caught up now,” Barocas said.

Lim agreed. “There really is no downside to receiving additional doses.”