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Children's Vaccines Health Center

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Teen Carried Measles Back From Romania

Unvaccinated Kids at Teen's Church Caught Up in Indiana Outbreak
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

August 2, 2006 - The country's largest measles outbreak in a decade was sparked when an unvaccinated teenager returned from a mission trip to Romania and attended a single church gathering with other unvaccinated children.

Of the 34 people who became sick during the 2005 outbreak: 33 were members of the same northwest Indiana church, 32 had not been vaccinated against measles, and 28 were school-aged. Of the 28 school-aged children, 20 were homeschooled.

The parents of most of the children who got sick said they had refused measles vaccination for their children because of fears about vaccine safety.

Containing the Outbreak

The experience shows that outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases can easily occur among relatively small numbers of unvaccinated people, says Amy A. Parker, MSN, of the CDC.

It also illustrates the importance of maintaining high vaccination levels. The outbreak did not spread beyond the church to the community at-large, where measles immunization coverage approached 98% in school-aged children.

"The outbreak stayed fairly well contained within the unvaccinated population," Parker tells WebMD. "Vaccination coverage rates are very high in Indiana and throughout the U.S., primarily because of school policies [requiring proof of vaccination for school entry]."

Parker and CDC colleagues published their detailed investigation of the Indiana church outbreak in the Aug. 3 issue of The New England Journal of Medicine.

Measles was officially declared eliminated from the U.S. in 2000.

But it remains a major illness in most of the rest of the world, with 30 million measles infections and 454,000 deaths from the disease each year, according to the World Health Organization.

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