More cases of measles have been reported four months into 2019 than were reported in all of 2018, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Monday.
So far, 387 cases have been reported in 15 states — Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Texas, and Washington — the CDC said. There were 372 cases of measles reported in 2018.
The agency added that the United States has now experienced the second-largest number of reported measles cases since the disease was considered eliminated in 2000.
Since the beginning of the year, six outbreaks have been ongoing in Santa Cruz County and Butte County in California; Rockland County, New York; New York City, Washington state and New Jersey.
Rockland County last week declared a state of emergency as the number cases there surpassed 150, and restricted people under age 18 who are not vaccinated from being in public places.
The largest number of measles cases reported in the U.S. since 2000 was 667 in 2014.
Most of these measles cases are a result of people not getting vaccinated before traveling and bringing back the disease from countries like Israel, Ukraine and the Philippines.
Measles is a very contagious disease, spread by air and contact with contaminated surfaces.
According to the CDC, the measles virus can live for up to two hours in an airspace where the infected person coughed or sneezed. If other people breathe the contaminated air or touch the infected surface, then touch their eyes, noses, or mouths, they can become infected. Measles is so contagious that if one person has it, up to 90% of the people close to that person who are not immune will also become infected.
Regardless of what some people tell you, measles is not a harmless disease. Before vaccination, hundreds died annually in the United States from measles, thousands were hospitalized, and many were left with permanent damage to their ears, eyes, or brains.
The CDC says that measles can be serious in all age groups. However, children younger than 5 years of age and adults older than 20 years of age are more likely to suffer from measles complications.
- Ear infections occur in about one out of every 10 children with measles and can result in permanent hearing loss.
- As many as one out of every 20 children with measles gets pneumonia, the most common cause of death from measles in young children.
- About one child out of every 1,000 who get measles will develop encephalitis (swelling of the brain) that can lead to convulsions and can leave the child deaf or with intellectual disability.
- For every 1,000 children who get measles, one or two will die from it.
- Measles may cause pregnant woman to give birth prematurely, or have a low-birth-weight baby.
- Subacute sclerosing panencephalitis (SSPE) is a very rare, but fatal disease of the central nervous system that results from a measles virus infection acquired earlier in life. SSPE generally develops 7 to 10 years after a person has measles, even though the person seems to have fully recovered from the illness. Since measles was eliminated in 2000, SSPE is rarely reported in the United States.
In the decade before 1963 when a vaccine became available, nearly all children got measles by the time they were 15 years of age. It is estimated 3 to 4 million people in the United States were infected each year. Also each year, among reported cases, an estimated 400 to 500 people died, 48,000 were hospitalized, and 1,000 suffered encephalitis (swelling of the brain) from measles.