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Measles Count Through Mid-March Surpassed Last Year’s Total

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An outbreak of measles — a highly contagious disease thought to have been eliminated from the United States by the year 2000 — had resulted in at least 64 recorded cases nationwide by late last week, more than the total (58) reported for all of last year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Last week, Jesse Ehrenfeld, the president of the American Medical Association, said in a statement that “the rate of vaccinations against measles in the U.S. has declined since 2019 — putting more people at risk of illness, disability and death.”

Measles, caused by a virus lodged in the nose or throat, can spread easily when someone with the infection coughs, sneezes or talks. This sends infectious droplets into the air, and others can then breathe them in. Early on, an infected person often has a mild fever, a persistent cough, a runny nose, a sore throat and watery eyes.

Typically, after a few days, the fever rises and red spots and bumps develop, usually first on the face, then becoming a splotchy red rash over most of the body and lasting about a week. Complications from a measles infection can include dehydration, ear infection, irritated and swollen airways (known as croup), and a lung infection (pneumonia).

In the United States, people are most often vaccinated against measles in early childhood and get lifetime protection through two doses of the MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccine, given between ages 12 and 15 months and again at 4 to 6 years old.

Ehrenfeld noted, however, that “the reduction in measles vaccination threatens to erase many years of progress as this previously eliminated vaccine-preventable disease returns.”

Because of a lower vaccination rate in the 2022-2023 school year, “approximately 250,000 kindergartners are at risk for measles infection,” he said.

This article is part of The Post’s “Big Number” series, which takes a brief look at the statistical aspect of health issues. Additional information and relevant research are available through the hyperlinks.

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Schedule26 May 2024