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Children's Vaccines Health Center

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Measles Strikes 72 People in 10 States

Cases Linked to Measles Patients From Other Countries; Check Your Immunizations, Says CDC
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

May 1, 2008 -- Measles has sickened at least 72 people in 10 states this year, according to the CDC.

The CDC notes ongoing measles outbreaks in four states -- Wisconsin, Arizona, Michigan, and New York -- additional cases in Washington reported since April 25, and earlier cases in California, Hawaii, Illinois, Pennsylvania, and Virginia.

At least 14 measles patients have been hospitalized; no deaths have been reported.

In most cases, travelers brought measles into the U.S., mainly from Europe and Israel. Switzerland and Israel are experiencing measles outbreaks.

Vaccination has virtually eliminated native cases of measles in the U.S. But measles "can come in easily through visitors or through Americans traveling abroad who bring it back with them," Anne Schuchat, MD, director of the CDC's National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said at a news conference.

"Many people don't think of traveling to Europe as a place where you can come down with an infectious disease," Schuchat says. "But measles is still endemic in most of the European region. It's very important for travelers heading off to Europe to make sure they're up to date on their immunizations."

The measles outbreaks aren't a sign of trouble with the measles vaccine, Schuchat says. "The measles vaccine is extremely effective, 99% effective, and we strongly recommend unimmunized persons be immunized," she says, adding that only one patient in the ongoing outbreaks is known to have been fully immunized against measles.

The measles vaccine is widely used, but there are "pockets" of communities with lower vaccination rates, sometimes for personal belief or religious reasons, Schuchat says.

"We want to make sure that parents who are making decisions about immunizing their children are aware of the measles risk that's ongoing around the country and make sure that they have a chance to talk with their providers about opportunities for protection," Schuchat says.

She also urges health care workers to make sure they're immunized and to take precautions with patients who may have measles. At least one patient this year got measles in a doctor's waiting room, and others got measles in hospitals or other health care settings.

"Twenty or 30 years ago, people were much more familiar with measles as parents, as well as doctors, and so we isolated people when they came into health care settings and we really limited transmission opportunities," Schuchat says. "We're really lucky that we aren't so familiar with measles anymore, but I think we're at a turning point where we need to make sure we don't go back to those days."

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