Measles on Upswing Despite Vaccines' Effectiveness: CDC
THURSDAY, April 24, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Vaccinations have
prevented an estimated 732,000 deaths, 21 million hospitalizations and
322 million illnesses among U.S. children born in the last 20 years,
according to a government report released Thursday.
Despite this success, measles -- a highly contagious disease -- is seeing a recurrence in the United States, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also reported.
of April 18, 129 people have been diagnosed with measles in outbreaks
in 13 states this year. Most of the people sickened were not vaccinated,
the CDC says.
Although these outbreaks start outside the country,
measles infection spreads rapidly among unvaccinated people, CDC
director Dr. Tom Frieden said during an early afternoon press briefing.
is still far too common in many parts of the world," he said.
"Globally, an estimated 20 million people get measles and 122,000 die
from the disease each year."
Twenty years ago, the Vaccines for
Children program was launched, providing free vaccines for families who
can't afford to pay for them.
The program was a direct response to
a measles outbreak that sickened more than 50,000 people and killed
more than 100. This happened despite the availability of a measles
vaccine since 1963, Frieden said.
"This was a wake-up call and it
impressed upon me how infectious measles is, because a single
undiagnosed case in a hospital could result in dozens of secondary
cases," he explained.
The program also saves money, Frieden said.
Fewer hospitalizations and more lives saved will cut nearly $295 billion
in direct costs and $1.38 trillion in total societal costs, estimates
The report was published in the April 25 issue of the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.
Anne Schuchat, director of the National Center for Immunization and
Respiratory Diseases, who also spoke at the news conference, said,
"Measles has gotten off to an early and active start this year."
129 measles cases reported so far "are the most measles cases reported
in the first four months of the year since 1996," she said.
In 2013, there were 189 measles cases. In 2011, 220 people had measles -- the most since 1996, according to the CDC.
measles outbreaks are too often the result of people opting out. Most
of the people, 84 percent of those who were reported to have measles
thus far, were not vaccinated or didn't know their vaccination status.
Of the unvaccinated U.S. residents, 68 percent had personal belief
exemptions," Schuchat said.
Areas with the highest number of
cases include California with 58, New York City with 24 and Washington
state with 13, Schuchat said. Thirty-four of all the cases were
imported, involving U.S. residents who traveled overseas and foreign
visitors. Half of those importations were from the Philippines, where
there were about 20,000 cases and 69 deaths as of February, she said.
noted that over the last 20 years, for measles alone, vaccination had
prevented about 71 million cases and almost 9 million hospitalizations.
"It's extraordinary what we are able to achieve with vaccinating,
compared with not vaccinating, she said.
One expert not involved with the report said that people forget how bad measles was before there was a vaccine.
caused about 3 million cases a year in the United States before there
was a vaccine in 1963," said Dr. Paul Offit, chief of the division of
infectious diseases at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.
would cause 48,000 hospitalizations and about 500 deaths," Offit said.
"Nobody had to be convinced to get a measles vaccine."
is reappearing because people are making a choice not to get
vaccinated, Offit said. "They are choosing not to get it because they
don't fear the disease," he said.
Offit thinks this may be a
natural outcome of a vaccine program. The disease is conquered, the
disease is forgotten, people don't get vaccinated, and the disease comes
back. "This is just going to be the pattern until the sun burns out," he said.
will take more measles hospitalizations and maybe a death or two to
convince people not to opt out of vaccinating their children, Offit
said. "It has to get to a level of consciousness that you realize that
not getting vaccinated means it might be you or your child who gets
hospitalized or dies," he said.
According to the CDC, the side effects of the vaccine are minor -- including pain and redness at the injection site, headache, fatigue or a vague feeling of discomfort -- all of which go away quickly.
measles is so contagious, the CDC recommends people of all ages keep up
to date with their vaccinations. The agency recommends two doses of MMR
and rubella) vaccine for everyone, starting at age 12 months. In
addition, infants aged 6 through 11 months should receive one dose of
MMR vaccine before traveling out of the country, the agency says.