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US measles cases rise to 41, as CDC now counts infections in 16 states

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At least 41 cases of measles have been reported in the United States in 16 states so far this year, according to new weekly figures released Friday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

This is an increase from 35 cases reported to the CDC in 15 states as of February 22. Michigan is the new state now included in the CDC’s count.

These numbers mark one of the largest increases in recent history for the virus at this time of year. It comes as experts fear the country could face a repeat of the massive 2019 surge, which officials at the time warned could threaten the United States’ status of having eliminated the virus.

“It’s not a good slope of the curve, in terms of where measles is going,” Dr. Demeter Daskalakis, head of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said Feb. 29 in front of a panel of agency representatives. advisors.

Daskalakis said measles could be prevented with safe and effective vaccines, warning that affected communities low vaccination coverage were at greatest risk.

Federal officials have expressed growing concern in recent weeks over the rise in measles cases, which comes as vaccination coverage has declined in many parts of the country.

A CDC spokesperson confirmed on February 28 that it was working to support investigators in Florida, which has reported the most infections this year. The CDC offers genotype sequencing from its laboratory, which has been successful in tracing links between cases in the past.

“We are a global community. As measles continues to grow in other parts of the world, these imports continue to occur. And when they arrive in places with low coverage, we risk more outbreaks. important,” he said.

Which states reported measles cases in 2024?

Local and state health officials have publicly discussed details of at least 39 confirmed or suspected cases of measles in 16 states: Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey and New York. , Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Washington.

Pennsylvania was among the first states to report cases this year, with three infections reported during an outbreak that began there in 2023. On February 27, authorities in Philadelphia announcement the epidemic was officially over.

New Jersey also later confirmed a case of measles in a resident of a county bordering Philadelphia, although officials said they were unable to find a direct link to that outbreak or another pathway exhibition.

On Jan. 12, Clay County, Mo., reported a case of measles in a resident who the department said had transited through Kansas City International Airport.

Virginia and Maryland each reported a case of measles in residents who had recently passed through Dulles International Airport — one of three major airports serving the Washington, D.C., area — following travel.

Georgia also reported a resident’s case on January 18. A state health department spokesperson said the case returned from travel to the Middle East. A second case was later confirmed in an unvaccinated family member.

New York City has also reported two cases of measles in residents so far this year. City officials believe both cases resulted from international travel and are not directly related to each other.

California has had two cases of measles this year. One was in Los Angeles County, following a flight from Istanbul. The other was reported a day later in San Diego, also after international travel.

Ohio has confirmed at least four cases so far. The first was announced in the Dayton area by Montgomery County authorities on Feb. 3, coming from a child who had recently traveled. Two more infections were later confirmed in neighboring Miami County. A fourth case was later confirmed in Richland County, near Cincinnati, which was not linked to the other cases. A fifth potential case is under investigation, officials announced Feb. 20 in Clermont County.

Minnesota announced a case linked to international travel on February 7 in Dakota County, near Minneapolis. Two other infections – in a sibling and cousin of the original case – were also later confirmed in the state.

Maricopa County, Arizona, confirmed a case of measles on February 10 following international travel. Two other infections that authorities linked to the initial case have since been reported by the same county, which spans Phoenix.

Florida has reported the highest number of cases so far this year, after at least seven elementary school students were infected at one point. primary school in Broward County. Two more cases were reported in the same county, near Miami. State records show all nine of the county’s cases were infected in Florida. Another travel-related case was also announced on February 23 in a resident of Polk County, between Orlando and Tampa.

Louisiana said Feb. 21 that two residents in the greater New Orleans area were diagnosed with measles, after returning from traveling outside the state.

Spokane County, Washington, also announced one case on February 21. The county said his case was initially exposed to the virus outside the country.

Indiana reported one case on Feb. 24 in Lake County, near Chicago. Citing privacy concerns, the department declined to release additional information.

The Michigan Department of Health announced a case on Feb. 23 in Oakland County, north of Detroit, that they said was “associated with international travel.”

What explains the increase in measles cases in 2024?

Measles cases are on the rise globally, with an increase in what the World Health Organization considers large or disruptive outbreaks in countries across the Eastern Mediterranean, Europe and Asia. The CDC said this increased the proportion of unvaccinated travelers exposed to the virus and brought it back to the United States.

“We’re a little worried that we’re now in the same or similar position that we’re seeing epidemiologically heading into this year of 2019, where suddenly we had this explosion of cases. And that’s what troubles us.” , Natasha Crowcroft, the WHO’s senior technical adviser for measles and rubella, said Feb. 22 at a meeting of federal vaccine advisers.

Crowcroft warned that efforts to catch up with measles vaccination rates have lagged behind other vaccines, she said, leaving more than half of countries at “high risk” of epidemics This year.

“We’ve lost 7% in our coverage in low-income countries. We’re already way behind in low-income countries, but they’ve fallen further,” Crowcroft said.

New measles outbreaks emerged in European countries that appeared to rank well in overall measles vaccination rates, officials said, but were home to communities with dangerously wide immunity gaps among young children. It’s different than in 2018 and 2019, when these countries saw many older children and unvaccinated adults also become infected.

“What we are experiencing now are actually the results of an accumulation of susceptible children who have not been reached by the vaccination programs that have been affected by the COVID pandemic,” said José Hagan of the European branch of the WHO.

Within U.S. health departments, officials say greater awareness of the need to get measles vaccinations before traveling abroad is also needed.

“People traveling to, say, Africa or Southeast Asia can go to travel clinics and make sure they are up to date on their vaccinations, but travelers going to the European region, coming from of the United States, don’t necessarily think that way,” said Christine Hahn, medical director of the Idaho Division of Public Health.

In 2023, Idaho faced its largest measles outbreak in decades after an unvaccinated resident became infected while traveling in Europe. Philadelphia officials say their large outbreak also could have been prevented by vaccination before the trip.

“Our initial case, while too young to receive routine vaccinations, would have been old enough to receive an early vaccine for travel, and could have prevented our entire cluster if they had done so,” Shara said Epstein of the Philadelphia Department of Public Health.

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