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US measles outbreak hits 25-year high, MMR vaccine misinformation associated with the spike



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April 30, 2019 15:25:34

The number of measles cases in the US reached its peak in 25 years, propelled the spread of misinformation about the vaccine, which can prevent disease, say federal health officials.

Key points:

  • In the majority of cases occurred in children who had not received the MMR vaccine
  • US Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar said that the increase in the number of cases was "completely avoided"
  • The current outbreak was centered in New York, where officials linked anti-vaxxers more than 390 reported cases in October

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said 695 cases have been reported in 22 states since January, making it the worst year for measles in the country since 1994, eight months still to go.

The vast majority of cases have occurred in children who had not received the vaccine against measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine, which provides immunity to the disease, officials said.

"The suffering we see today is completely avoidable," US Health and Human Services Alex Azar said.

"We know that vaccines are safe, because they are one of the most studied drugs we have."

Public health experts say that some communities have low vaccination rates because of the spread of bad information – especially now exposed the notion that the MMR vaccine is linked to autism – through social media, brochures, hotlines and other means.

"Many parents are afraid," said Dr. Jonathan Fielding, the former head of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health.

"If you want to believe, your child does not need a lot of shots, there are many places where you can find people who agree with you.

"It's not so easy to distinguish between what is real and what is not."

Travelers bringing measles in the United States

Measles in most people causes fever, runny nose, cough and a rash all over the body.

However, a very small proportion of infected may suffer complications such as pneumonia and dangerous swelling of the brain.

None of the victims of the recent outbreak is not dead, but 3 percent were infected with pneumonia, and 9 percent were hospitalized due to complications from the disease, said CDC Director Robert Redfield.

The current outbreak was centered in New York, where officials said more than 390 cases have been reported since October, mostly among children in the Orthodox Jewish community in Brooklyn.

"This outbreak is fueled by a small group of anti-vaxxers in these areas," said Health Commissioner of New York Dr. Oxiris Barbot.

National outbreak increased after 82 people in 2018 and more than 40 people in 2019 brought measles in the United States from other countries, mostly Ukraine, Israel and the Philippines.

Up to 10 percent of patients in the current outbreak adults who received one or two doses of the vaccine, the CDC reports.

Some adults may need a new dose, depending on whether they received the recommended two-dose live virus or, if they are traveling to and from the areas of outbreaks.

Despite the fact that the virus has been eliminated from the country in 2000, which means that it no longer was constantly present throughout the year, outbreaks still occur through the travelers arriving from countries where measles is still common.

Reuters / AP

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