A measles outbreak is currently impacting 10 states. The Centers for Disease Control in January 2019 reported there have been a total of 79 cases in California, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Illinois, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Texas and Washington.

Every year there are measles outbreaks in the United States. From 2010 to 2019 the numbers have ranged from a low of 55 in 2012 to a high of 667 in 2014. In 2018 there were 372 cases.

Three of the outbreaks, defined as three or more cases in a given area, were reported in 2019 in New York State, New York City and Washington State. These outbreaks were associated with travelers who brought measles back after visiting Israel and the Ukraine. Both areas are experiencing large measles outbreaks.

This reinforces the fact that travelers should be vaccinated before traveling internationally. We live in an increasingly small world. In a few hours we can travel thousands of miles away from home and encounter illnesses we had not anticipated. Always make sure your regular vaccinations are up to date and before traveling overseas always check with the State Department website for special vaccinations needed in the areas where you will travel.

The majority of people in the United States who get measles are unvaccinated. You need to remember when traveling that measles is still common in many parts of the world, including some countries in Europe, Asia, the Pacific and Africa.

Don’t think that just because you don’t travel overseas that you don’t need to vaccinate. Travelers with measles continue to bring the disease into the U.S. Some are traveling on business, others for pleasure. Either type of traveler can infect you here at home. Measles spreads when it reaches a community in the U.S. where groups of people are unvaccinated.

Since measles was believed to be eliminated from the United States in 2000 one can reasonably ask, why do we still have outbreaks? The simplistic answer is unvaccinated United States citizens visit another country where they do not have adequate vaccination, unknowingly encounter someone with the illness and bring it back with them to the United States. They show symptoms only after they return because the incubation period can be several weeks after infection.

In 2018 there were 17 outbreaks, including three outbreaks in New York State, New York City and New Jersey. Those cases occurred primarily among unvaccinated Orthodox Jews who brought measles back from Israel, where a large outbreak is occurring.

In 2015 a large (147 cases), multi-state measles outbreak was linked to an amusement park in California. The outbreak is believed to have started from a traveler who became infected overseas with measles and then visited the amusement park while infectious. No source was positively identified but the virus type (B3) was identical to the virus type that caused a large measles outbreak in the Philippines in 2014.

In 2014 there were 23 measles outbreaks, including one large outbreak of 383 cases. That outbreak occurred primarily among unvaccinated Amish communities in Ohio.

Complications from measles include ear infections, sometimes leading to hearing loss; pneumonia (1 in 20; most common cause of death from measles); one in 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 also cause premature birth, or a low-birth-weight baby.

Please vaccinate.

Mrs. Theil is a child advocate in Wayne and Holmes counties. She can be contacted at BeverlyVT@aol.com.