More than 107 people in 21 states have contracted measles since July 18 of this year, reports the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. If this pace keeps up, it could be the worst outbreak since 2014, when there were 667 reported cases of measles in the calendar year, according to The Daily Independent.
Measles was declared eliminated in the United States in the year 2000. While measles have been eliminated in the United States, the disease is still common in Europe, Asia, Africa, and other parts of the world. Travelers may have brought the virus into the country without realizing they were infected or communicable, and the effects can be devastating in communities without immunity.
Measles usually takes about 7-14 days from the date of infection to manifest, so people may have the disease without even realizing it, and can unknowingly spread it to others.
Herd immunity occurs when enough members of the community are vaccinated or otherwise inoculated against the disease, which prevents it from spreading. The CDC encourages everyone to ensure they are up to date on the MMR vaccine, which prevents measles, mumps, and rubella. Children should receive the vaccine first when they are between 12 and 15-months-old, and a second round of MMR vaccinations when they are between the ages of four and six.
Measles is extremely contagious, which is one reason outbreaks are so dangerous. The disease spreads through the air, and it’s so infectious that the CDC states that anyone near someone infected with measles has a 90% chance of becoming infected if the infected person coughs or sneezes. With such a high transfer rate, outbreaks gain speed quickly, which may be why this incident is already on track to surpass previous ones.
The CDC has also reported other foodborne illness related outbreaks this year, with an E.Coli outbreak caused by romaine lettuce and a salmonella scare attributed to pasta salad, cereal, poultry, and melons. Vibrio was tied to fresh crab meat. All these outbreaks also occurred this summer and were reported by the CDC and properly investigated.
Infectious diseases are harder to avoid since it is hard to know which fellow traveler might be ill. Traveling can also leave families who are not vaccinated vulnerable if they visit parts of the world where diseases have yet to be eradicated.
Some teens and adults may benefit from a measles vaccine as well, per the CDC. You can check their resources to see if one is necessary for you. You can also find all the information you need to effectively protect your family from catching measles when traveling or at home.