US measles count continues to climb, driven by New York outbreaks

Author: CBS News
Published: Updated:
A measles poster is seen at Venice Family Clinic in Los Angeles, California February 5, 2015. Lawmakers in several U.S. states are backing proposals to make it harder for parents to opt out of school vaccinations based on personal beliefs, as health officials fight a growing measles outbreak that has sickened more than 100 people in more than a dozen states. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

United States health officials say at least 60 more measles cases have been reported, increasing a 2019 tally that is already the highest it’s been in 25 years. Officials on Monday said 764 cases have been reported as of last Thursday. It’s the most in the U.S. since 1994, when 963 were reported.

New York has had the most illnesses this year, by far. Last week’s cases included 41 in New York City and 11 in nearby Rockland County. Most were unvaccinated people in Orthodox Jewish communities.

In all, 23 states have reported cases this year. The latest to join the list is Pennsylvania.

“The CDC says protection across the country is pretty strong. The problem is in these areas where we’re seeing outbreaks and where there’s under-protection” due to people who haven’t been vaccinated, said CBS News chief medical correspondent Dr. Jon LaPook.

Measles was once common but gradually became rare after a vaccination campaign that started in the 1960s.

The disease is extremely contagious and can be serious for all age groups, but is most dangerous for children under 5 and adults over 70. Babies who are too young to get vaccinated are particularly at risk.

According to the CDC, as many as one out of every 20 children with measles develops pneumonia, the most common cause of death for that age group. Approximately one out of every 1,000 children with measles will develop swelling of the brain, or encephalitis, which can lead to convulsions and leave the child deaf or with an intellectual disability.

For every 1,000 children who contract the virus, the CDC estimates one or two will die from it. Measles can also cause pregnant women to give birth prematurely or have a low-birthweight baby.

The disease is vaccine-preventable, with one dose of the MMR vaccine being 93 percent effective at preventing measles, and two doses about 97 percent effective.

The CDC recommends all children get two doses of the MMR vaccine, starting with the first dose at 12 to 15 months of age, and the second dose between the ages of 4 and 6 years old. Infants 6 through 11 months should receive one dose of the vaccine before international travel.

Some doctors have urged those who received the measles vaccine between 1963 and 1968 to consider getting a booster shot to make sure they’re protected. “Starting in 1963 we started vaccinating. The first five years of the vaccine — some batches of it were not very good. None of us really know which batch we got,” CBS News medical contributor Dr. David Agus explained.

Agus said there’s no danger in getting an additional measles shot, though you may experience soreness at the site of injection.

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