Measles infections have risen dramatically this year in the U.S. with outbreaks erupting as the highly infectious virus is imported from abroad.
An almost forgotten scourge in some countries, measles has made an astounding comeback in such unexpected parts of the world as Britain, the European continent and Israel, and it is in these regions where American travelers are contracting it.
Worse, more than 98 percent of Americans who've become infected were unvaccinated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which voiced concern about the measles upsurge this month.
“This isn't the failure of a vaccine,” said CDC director Dr. Thomas Frieden. “This is the failure to vaccinate.”
There have been nearly three times as many measles cases nationally this year compared with each of the past 13 years.
Measles was declared eliminated in this country and the rest of the Western Hemisphere in 2000, Frieden said. But elimination doesn't equate with total eradication, he said during a news briefing. When pockets of the population remain unimmunized, the virus can spread remarkably fast, he added.
Since 2000, there were generally about 60 measles cases a year nationwide. This year, there have been that many in Brooklyn, N.Y., alone. Nationally, so far, there have been 175 cases. North Carolina and Texas, like Brooklyn, have also experienced major outbreaks.
The Brooklyn outbreak struck two Jewish communities where parents shun vaccines for religious reasons. A 17-year-old who had traveled to London contracted the virus and spread it upon return.
This isn't the failure of a vaccine. This is the failure to vaccinate.”
CDC director Dr. Thomas Frieden,