By Laura Iwig, Senior Specialist, Infectious Disease Program, APHL
For many people, the word “measles” conjures up memories of the series of MMR vaccines – that’s measles, mumps and rubella – they received as a child. Measles, as you may know, is a viral infection spread by contact with droplets from the nose, mouth, or throat of an infected individual. The disease can have serious health consequences, notably in infants.
Since the development of the measles vaccine 50 years ago, there have been few cases in the United States. In fact, in 2000 it was thought that the US had eradicated indigenous measles. Unfortunately the disease has resurged in recent years with outbreaks in Texas, New York, Washington, Michigan, and most recently, New York City and North Carolina.
While it’s discouraging that measles is making a comeback in cities across the country, there are positive developments at public health labs, which are leveraging national and state resources to respond to such outbreaks. North Carolina, for example, was ready to respond to an influx of measles specimens in spring 2013 because it had signed up as a submitting laboratory for APHL’s Vaccine Preventable Disease Project. North Carolina also had the benefit of services provided by one of the Vaccine Preventable Disease Project’s Reference Centers, Wisconsin State Hygienic Laboratory. Wisconsin tested 10 specimens associated with the outbreak, three of which proved to be positive. More such collaborations can be expected as state health departments continue to ramp up surveillance and detection of emerging diseases and of those, like measles, that boomerang back from obscurity.
Measles in the News:
A possible measles exposure was reported in Washington due to visitors from out of state. Individuals are encouraged to call a health care provider if they develop any symptoms of the illness.
The Florida Department of Health in Orange County recently confirmed a case of measles in a tourist. The infected individual visited many local attractions. Individuals who attended area attractions at the same time as the infected individual are encouraged to contact a health care provider if they develop symptoms.
The Brooklyn Measles outbreak that went on from March to June was officially declared over in mid-July. This outbreak resulted in 58 cases of measles in Brooklyn, NY.
Travelers may have been exposed to measles at the Dulles Airport on June 7. A warning from the Loudon County Health Department was issued to all travelers who were in Concourse A or B, the International Arrivals building or the baggage claim level of the main terminal.
For more information:
Information about measles including current outbreaks and preventative measures is available here.
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