U.S. measles cases nearly tripled in 2013

December 16, 2013

Although measles has been practically eliminated in the U.S, measles cases spiked in 2013 because of international travel, according to a new study.

Although measles has been practically eliminated in the U.S, measles cases spiked in 2013 because of international travel, according to a new study.

Published in the December 5, 2013, issue of JAMA Pediatrics, the study was led by Mark J. Papania, MD, MPH, with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Importation of measles continues, Papania wrote, and American doctors should suspect measles in children with high fever and rash, “especially when associated with international travel or international visitors.” Healthcare providers should report suspected cases to local health departments. 

On an average day, 430 children – 18 every hour – die of measles worldwide. In 2011, there were an estimated 158,000 measles deaths, the CDC found. In the U.S., there are usually only around 60 cases per year, but there was a spike in 2013, according to the study. The estimated 175 cases were linked to individuals who brought the infection home after foreign travel.

“A measles outbreak anywhere is a risk everywhere,” said CDC Director Tom Frieden, MD, MPH. “The steady arrival of measles in the United States is a constant reminder that deadly diseases are testing our health security every day. Someday, it won’t be only measles at the international arrival gate; so, detecting diseases before they arrive is a wise investment in U.S. health security.”

Currently, only one in five countries can rapidly detect, respond to, or prevent global health threats caused by emerging infections. Improvements overseas, such as strengthening surveillance and lab systems, training disease detectives, and building facilities to investigate disease outbreaks make the world -- and the United States -- more secure, according to the CDC.

“With patterns of global travel and trade, disease can spread nearly anywhere within 24 hours,” Frieden said. “That’s why the ability to detect, fight, and prevent these diseases must be developed and strengthened overseas, and not just here in the United States.”

 

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