Measles infections increase in the world and alerts are issued

Measles outbreaks in the United States and other parts of the world are raising concerns among health experts.

The measles, one of the most contagious diseases in the world, can lead to serious health complications. What is the best defense, according to experts? Get vaccinated.

Here's what you need to know about measles cases so far this year.

How many cases of measles have there been in the United States this year?

Nationally, measles cases are already at almost double the total for all of last year.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) documented 113 cases as of April 5, 2024. There have been seven outbreaks, and the majority of cases in the United States — 73% — are linked to those outbreaks.

In any case, the figure is lower than in some recent years: in 2014 there were 667 cases and in 2019 1,274 were recorded.

Why is a problem?

The 2019 measles epidemic was the worst in nearly three decades, and threatened the United States' standing as a country that has measles eradicated by stopping the continued spread of the virus.

The CDC released a report on recent trends in measles cases, noting that cases in the first three months of the year were 17 times higher than the average figure for the first quarter of the previous three years.

Although health authorities appear to be doing a good job of detecting and responding to outbreaks, “the rapid increase in the number of reported measles cases during the first quarter of 2024 represents a new threat to its elimination,” the authors said. Of the report.

Where does measles come from?

The disease remains common in many parts of the world and reaches the United States through unvaccinated travelers.

According to the report, most of the recent imports involve unvaccinated Americans who became infected in the Middle East and Africa and brought measles back to the United States.

Where did measles outbreaks occur in the United States in 2024?

Health officials have confirmed measles cases in 17 states so far in 2024, including places like New York City, Philadelphia and Chicago.

More than half of the cases come from the outbreak in Chicago, where 61 people have recently contracted the virusmostly people who lived in a migrant shelter.

The city's health department said cases are declining after health officials administered 14,000 vaccines in just over a month.

How is measles spread?

Measles is highly contagious. It spreads when people carrying the virus breathe, cough or sneeze, and through contaminated surfaces. It can also stay in the air for up to two hours.

Up to 9 in 10 people who are susceptible to the virus will contract the virus if they are exposed to it, according to the CDC.

Measles used to be a common disease among children.

How serious was it?

Before a vaccine was available in 1963, there were between 3 million and 4 million cases each year, meaning almost all American children suffered from it at some point during their childhood, according to the CDC. Most recovered.

But measles can be much more than an uncomfortable rash, said Susan Hassig, an infectious disease researcher at Tulane University.

“I think people need to remember that this is a preventable disease,” Hassig said. “It is a potentially dangerous disease for your children.”

In the decade before the vaccine became available, 48,000 people were hospitalized each year due to the disease. About a thousand people developed dangerous brain inflammation as a result of the disease, and between 400 and 500 died, according to the CDC.

Is the measles vaccine safe? What are the vaccination rates?

The measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine is safe and effective. It is a routine and recommended childhood vaccine that is divided into two doses.

Research shows that a very high vaccination rate is required to prevent the spread of measles: 95% of the population should be inoculated against the virus.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, national measles vaccination rates among kindergartners dropped to 93% and remain at that level. Many parts of the United States have much lower rates. The decline is partly because a record number of children have received exemptions from getting vaccinated.