2013 May Be the Worst Year for Measles Since 1996

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If 2013 continues on course, the United States will see more measles cases than it has in 17 years, according to the latest report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

From January 1 until August 24, the CDC has recorded 159 measles cases. At this rate, we will pass the 2011 number of 222 cases, making this the worst year since 1996, when 500 cases were reported.

According to the CDC, parents who refuse to vaccinate their children for the illness are to blame for the rising numbers.

Before the measles vaccine was discovered, hundreds of thousands of people contracted the sickness.  Measles was thought to be fully wiped out in the United States by the year 2000, but foreign visitors may have brought it back, and it was able to spread due to vaccine objectors who reject such preventative medicine for religious or other ideological reasons.

For every 1,000 children who contract the measles, one to three will die. Even those who survive can get severely ill. Almost 40 percent of children under 5 years old who contracted the measles in 2011 required hospitalization.

From the CDC report:

Measles is a highly contagious, acute viral illness that can lead to complications and death.

To date in 2013, eight outbreaks have accounted for 77% of the cases, and outbreaks have ranged from three to 58 cases. The largest outbreak occurred in New York City. None of these patients had documentation of vaccination at the time of exposure, including 12 (21%) who were aged <12 months. Of those who were eligible for vaccination, 31 (67%) had objected or had parental objection to vaccination because of religious or philosophical beliefs.

CNN interviewed pediatric disease expert Dr. Buddy Creech of Vanderbilt University, who stated, "This is very bad. This is horrible. The complications of measles are not to be toyed with, and they're not altogether rare.”

Symptoms of measles start one to two weeks after exposure, and include a flat, blotchy rash, high temperature, dry cough, runny nose, sensitivity to light, and small white spots in the mouth.

Sources: CNN, CDC, Mayo Clinic