A new Measles outbreak erupted in Tarrant County, TX when a visitor to the Eagle Mountain International Church infected members of the congregation, staff and the daycare. Although the church’s pastor, Terri Pearsons, has been critical of vaccines in the past, she has fortunately changed her outlook and is now urging her congregation to get immunized now to prevent further spread of the disease.
Measles is a highly contagious virus, that infects ~90% of those who are exposed (and unimmunized). Since the introduction of the vaccine in 1963, cases have fallen from the hundreds of thousands per year to near eradication levels. However, global travel and the recent rise in anti-vaccine rhetoric has allowed for the past several years to see higher numbers of cases in the ‘post-vaccine era’.
Although it is imperfect (due to incomplete and sometimes redundant data), I put together this map of the 2013 outbreaks in the US, presently amounting to ~135 cases (using data from Vincent Iannelli, M.D.’s report to About.com.) With four and a half months remaining in the year, 2013 stands a chance of reaching or surpassing the 2011 (modern) record of 220 cases.
This map helps to highlight that Measles is considered to be eradicated in the United States, however the disease continues to be introduced by travelers and spread in short bursts amongst unimmunized individuals.
“The majority of measles cases were unvaccinated (65%) or had unknown vaccination status (20%). Of the 911 reported measles cases, 372 (40%) were importations (on average 34 importations/year), 239 (26%) were epidemiologically linked to these importations, 190 (21%) either had virologic evidence of importation or had been linked to those cases with virologic evidence of importation” says the CDC.
The CDC encourages parents (and all Citizens) to remain vigilant and follow these recommendations to help maintain herd immunity and prevent introduced cases from becoming endemic:
- vaccinating children at age 12-15 months with a first dose of MMR vaccine,
- ensuring that school-age children receive a second dose of MMR vaccine,
- vaccinating high-risk groups, such as health care personnel and international travelers including infants aged 6 to 11 months,
- maintaining measles awareness among health care personnel and the public, and
- working with US Government agencies and international agencies, including World Health Organization (WHO), on global measles mortality reduction and elimination goals.