U.S. narrowly keeps measles elimination status

U.S. narrowly keeps measles elimination status
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The U.S. has narrowly maintained its measles elimination status, despite one of the worst outbreaks of the disease in over 20 years, federal health officials said Friday. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there were a confirmed 1,249 cases of measles between January 1 and Oct. 4, 2019, the greatest number of measles cases in the country since 1992. 

While cases have been reported in 31 states, the CDC said 75 percent of all cases were linked to outbreaks in New York City and New York state, mostly among close-knit Orthodox Jewish communities where parents did not vaccinate their children.

These outbreaks have been traced to unvaccinated travelers who brought measles back from other countries at the beginning of October 2018.

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When measles is imported into a highly vaccinated community, outbreaks either do not happen or are usually small. However, if measles is introduced into an under-vaccinated community, it can spread quickly and it can be difficult to control, officials said.

The New York State Department of Health yesterday declared the outbreak over. The last recent reported rash onset was July 15 in New York City, and Aug. 19 in the rest of New York state. However, the CDC said “continued vigilance is important to ensure that elimination is sustained.”

The U.S. officially “eliminated” measles in 2000, but the outbreaks threatened that status. A country is considered to have eliminated measles after an absence of continuous spread of the disease for more than a year.

CDC encourages Americans to embrace vaccination with confidence for themselves and their families. We want to emphasize that vaccines are safe. They remain the most powerful tool to preserve health and to save lives,” CDC Director Robert Redfield said in a statement.

“The prevalence of measles is a global challenge, and the best way to stop this and other vaccine preventable diseases from gaining a foothold in the U.S. is to accept vaccines,” he said.

The U.S. is not alone; there’s a global trend of declining vaccination rates, which officials said may have exacerbated the problem in this country.

The World Health Organization (WHO) in April reported that there has been a 300 percent increase in the number of measles cases worldwide compared with the first three months of 2018.  

WHO also for the first time declared vaccine hesitancy as a top 10 threat to global health.