Measles cases this year, including those in Georgia, have surpassed pre-eradication levels, the CDC says. (Image via Shutterstock)
ATLANTA, GA — As a measles outbreak spreads across the country, three new cases of the deadline and highly contagious disease were confirmed in Georgia on April 25, in addition to three cases reported in January 2019, state health officials say. The infected patients are family members who were all unvaccinated, according to the Georgia Department of Public Health. No deaths have been reported from the outbreak.
Measles spread quickly from person to person through coughing and sneezing. Symptoms start with fever, runny nose, cough, red eyes and sore throat. Then a rash spreads over the body. Complications are more common in children younger than age 5 and adults over 20, and include ear infections, diarrhea, pneumonia, encephalitis (brain swelling) and death.
"Vaccination is paramount to good health, especially when it comes to highly contagious viral infections, like measles. Measles was considered eliminated from the U.S. in 2000 because an effective vaccination program was developed," the Georgia Department of Public Health says.
Children should receive two doses of MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine at 1 year of age and 4 to 6 years of age, the agency say. Adults who have not received the vaccine should become immunized. Vaccination prevents illness, complications and sometimes even death.
To prevent measles and other viruses the health department urges Georgians to:
Vaccinate your children. Georgia requires immunization from measles and other viruses for child care and school attendance.Contact the Georgia Registry of Immunization Transactions and Services, or GRITS, at 1-888-523-8076 to obtain vaccination records if you are uncertain if you have been vaccinated. Anyone who has never received the measles vaccination should become immunized. Be aware of immunization schedules. Certain vaccinations are only needed once or twice, like the measles vaccination. Others may be needed more often, like an annual flu shot. Know when and how often you and your family should be vaccinated. Make sure you are protected when you travel. Different places handle viruses and immunizations differently.Get vaccinated during pregnancy. Vaccines during pregnancy for whooping cough, flu and others are beneficial. Keep unvaccinated children at home during viral outbreaks. If a viral outbreak occurs, and your child is not vaccinated, do not take them to school, or they will become infected. Talk with your child’s health care provider about your immunization concerns. A lot has been said about immunizations. If you have questions, talk with your health care provider.
Experts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warn that 2019 is on pace to be the worst year for measles since the disease was eradicated in 2000 by vaccinations. So far this year, 626 cases of measles have been confirmed in 22 states, including Georgia, according to the latest information from the federal CDC.
That’s second only to 2014, when 667 cases of measles were reported nationwide for the week ending April 19, the health agency said. Confirmed measles cases increased by 71 from the previous week, the CDC said.
The states reporting measles cases also include Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Texas, Tennessee and Washington.
If you or a family member becomes infected with measles, avoid public places until about four days after the onset of the rash. Call your doctor before visiting a clinic, so they may take precautions to prevent the spread of measles.
The outbreaks across the country are linked to travelers who brought measles back from countries such as Israel, Ukraine and the Philippines, where large measles outbreaks are occurring, according to the CDC, which advises measles vaccinations before traveling abroad.
Dr. Peter Marks, the director of the Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, said the new numbers released Monday are troubling, especially in light of the World Health Organization’s statement earlier this year that vaccine hesitancy is one of the top 10 threats to global health.
"It deeply concerns us when we see preventable diseases such as measles or mumps re-emerging in the United States and threatening our communities," Marks said in a statement. "We want to underscore our continued confidence in the safety and effectiveness of the vaccines that are highly successful at preventing — in some cases, nearly eradicating — preventable diseases," he said.
The MMR vaccine to prevent measles, mumps and rubella (also known as German measles) has been used for nearly 50 years in the United States. Measles and rubella were completely eradicated, and mumps cases decreased by 99 percent as result of widespread use of the vaccine.
Researchers have confirmed the safety and effectiveness of the MMR vaccine and have demonstrated that use of the vaccine is not associated with the development of autism, Marks said, acknowledging one of the concerns of so-called "anti-vaxxers."
The MMR vaccine is 97 percent effective in preventing both measles and rubella if given according to CDC guidelines, which call for two doses beginning at 1 year. There are some generally mild and short-lived side effects, such as a rash or fever.