USA measles cases highest since 2000: health officials

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The resurgence of the contagious disease is linked mainly to large outbreaks in Washington state and two in NY that began late previous year, the agency said in a statement. They added that the cases aren't related to four earlier cases in people who traveled through LA County earlier this year and that most of the patients were unvaccinated.

"Measles is the signal that in these communities where there's profound under-vaccination, they are susceptible to a whole menu of communicable diseases we thought were relegated to yesteryear", he said.

A case in point is the 43-year-old Israeli flight attendant for El Al who remains in a coma after catching the measles and developing encephalitis, Offit said.

"I do believe that parents' concerns about vaccines leads to undervaccination, and most of the cases that we're seeing are in unvaccinated communities", Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases at the CDC, said in February at a congressional hearing about measles outbreaks. That total included 61 cases recorded in the last six days, of which two were pregnant women, the city's health department said on Wednesday. Four are linked to one person who traveled internationally, and the fifth comes from an overseas traveler.

"Part of the problem is that people are no longer fearful of these diseases, and their fears have shifted to vaccines", Salmon says.

Unless an exemption is claimed, children are required to be vaccinated against or show proof of acquired immunity for almost a dozen diseases - including polio, whooping cough and measles - before they can attend school or go to child care centers.

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The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health says four cases are linked to one another after worldwide travel, and there's been an additional single case of measles following global travel.

There had been six measles cases in Georgia in the last 14 years before the six cases this year.

The FDA published a statement this week that emphasizes the measles vaccine's safety. They were infected by visitors from Israel, where an outbreak of the potentially life-threatening illness began a year ago. Approximately 90% of people who aren't immunized will come down with measles if they come into contact with an infected individual.

The Illinois Department of Public Health announced Tuesday a slate of initiatives to increase vaccination rates statewide. One dose is about 93 percent effective at preventing measles, but anyone in that age group can still get a second dose, health officials say.

Symptoms include a fever, a runny nose, coughing, conjunctivitis (inflammation of the eye tissue) and a rash, which usually appears 10 to 21 days after the exposure. People born between 1957 and 1989 generally had only one MMR dose.

Measles spreads through the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes.

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