Measles in the United States
A recent report from the CDC shows the most number of reported measles cases in the US in 15 years.
Balintfy: Measles is an infectious disease caused by a virus that resides in the nose and throat of infected people.
Fauci: It is very, very easily spread from person to person by the respiratory route.
Balintfy: Dr. Anthony Fauci at the NIH explains the disease burden of measles was very serious.
Fauci: It resulted prior to widespread vaccination in close to 50,000 hospitalizations, 3 to 4 million cases, between 400 and 500 deaths. That’s really quite serious and I think what people don’t fully appreciate is that because we’ve been so successful in eliminating measles, for the most part as a year-round threat, people tend to forget or never even realize that it can be a really serious disease.
Balintfy: In fact, because of very high immunizations rates in the US, health experts declared measles eliminated in 2000. According to the CDC, between 2001 and 2010 there have only been about 60 cases reported each year. Now the CDC is reporting that in 2011, there was a spike in cases of measles in the US. Dr. Fauci points out mostly imported cases.
Fauci: Namely, people who come into the country who are unvaccinated and were infected and people who live in the United States who go traveling come back and bring it back and then they themselves expose other people who are unvaccinated and you get these mini little outbreaks. So this past year in 2011, there was a total of 222 cases, which involved 17 outbreaks in 31 states. So it isn’t just someone going to a country, getting infected with measles, coming back, and that’s it. That person can infect people who for one reason or other were not vaccinated even though they never left the United States.
Balintfy: Measles spreads when an infected person sneezes or coughs. Dr. Fauci describes the symptoms.
Fauci: Well it starts off with a fever, a significant fever and then after a couple of days or maybe even within a day or so of the fever, you wind up getting a running nose, you cough, you sneeze, and you get what’s called conjunctivitis or inflammation or red eye as it were. Then, after a period of a couple of days, you develop a rash, which starts off on the face and the neck and then goes to the trunk and to the extremities. You can get serious complications, which include anything from relatively mild like diarrhea, dehydration to more serious like pneumonia and in maybe 1 in a 1000 cases or so, you can get brain involvement with encephalitis and maybe even death in 1 in a 1000 cases.
Balintfy: There is no treatment for measles and young babies are especially susceptible. NIH’s Dr. Fauci says prevention is the best treatment for measles.
Fauci: You can treat the symptoms of dehydration and the symptoms of secondary infections for example when people get ear infections and other infections or pneumonia. But we have a phenomenally effective vaccine against measles and for that reason, measles vaccination should be as it is widespread. It's about 92% adherence to measles vaccinations in this country and we need to get even better than that.
Balintfy: Health experts recommend that college and other students, health care personnel and anyone traveling internationally should have two appropriately spaced doses of vaccines. They’re concerned that with the summer travel season starting, travelers may bring back infection with measles, rather than proper souvenirs. For more information on measles, including vaccination and incidence, visit www.cdc.gov. For NIH Radio, this is Joe Balintfy— NIH...Turning Discovery Into Health®