Measles is a virus that has been considered eradicated in the United States since 2000 due to widespread vaccination. As Dr. Kevin Campbell explains, some people in the U.S. have failed to have their children immunized--some citing religious and philosophical differences --which has resulted in a resurgence.
Globally, measles is still one of the leading causes of death in children under the age of five. More than 150,000 people, mostly in developing countries, die from the measles every year.
While measles is rare in the U.S., the Centers for Disease Control notes it's still a worldwide public health problem since travelers can bring the virus into the country.
What are the measles and what are the risks?
Measles is a virus that grows in the cells that line the back of the throat and lungs. It's highly contagious and can be spread by coughing, sneezing and close personal contact with infected people. Symptoms include fever, cough and a rash on the face.
Measles can also result in serious complications including ear infections, pneumonia and brain swelling or encephalitis, which occurs in about one out of every 1,000 cases and may lead to death.
Recent surge in cases.
So far this year, 159 cases of measles have been reported in 16 states, with three outbreaks accounting for most of the cases. Fifty-eight cases were reported in New York, 23 right here in North Carolina and 21 cases in Texas. That's on track for the most cases in 13 years, since measles was considered eliminated.
The CDC investigated more than a decade's worth of data on measles cases, including 2013 cases through the end of August and found that 82 percent of cases were in unvaccinated persons. Nine percent were in people who weren't sure if they'd been vaccinated.
What about those who believe that immunizations are dangerous?
The CDC said recent misinformation about the measles vaccine -- including a since-disputed link to developing autism from vaccines -- may still be influencing some families.
Reducing the spread of measles
It is essential that children are vaccinated against certain viruses. Only by making sure that all are immune can we limit the outbreaks that are being seen today. Talk with your pediatrician if you have concerns or questions about vaccinations. Your doctor can share the data with you so that you make an informed decision based on science rather than on hearsay.