U.S. measles cases are surging again. Instances of the highly contagious illness are on pace to set a record. And although measles is usually a childhood infection, the vaccine-preventable disease can affect persons of any age.
Measles symptoms usually develop 10–12 days after exposure to the infection. Symptoms may include cough, fever, and runny nose, and a red rash that usually starts on the face and spreads to the rest of the body. Airborne germs spread through coughs and sneezes—often before anyone knows the infected person is sick.
On Monday, U.S. health officials reported that 555 measles cases have been confirmed so far this year—up from 465 just a week ago. The 2019 tally is already the most since 2014, when 667 were reported. The most before that was 963 cases in 1994.
While 20 states have reported cases, New York has been the center of the outbreak. Nearly two-thirds of all cases have been in New York. Most of the New York cases have been unvaccinated people in Orthodox Jewish communities.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that all children get two doses of measles vaccine, which is 97% effective.
Other states reporting measles cases this year include Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Oregon, Texas, and Washington. After the CDC issued its report Monday morning, Iowa officials said they too had seen a case.
Also on Monday, the World Health Organization reported that globally there are four times as many measles cases so far this year as there were at the same time last year.
The largest numbers have been in Ukraine, Madagascar, and India, with each reporting more than 60,000 cases.
The good news is that most people survive the measles. However, complications like bronchitis, hearing loss, and brain inflammation can occur.
(A woman receives a measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine. U.S. measles cases have surged this year, and are on pace to set a record. AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File)