CDC issues measles warning after global increase of cases

Measles vaccine

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued a warning concerning an increase in measles cases around the globe.

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The CDC issued the warning to doctors, urging medical professionals to vaccinate babies earlier than the normal schedule if families have international travel plans, CNN reported.

If a child is 6 months old and will be leaving the country, the CDC said they should be vaccinated early instead of complying with the typical timeline of the first shot coming at 12 months and a second between 4 and 6 years old.

Austria, the Philippines, Romania and the United Kingdom are all having outbreaks, the CDC said. The agency added that 46 countries have a high number of cases. In the U.S., the measles are considered endemic, but some cases surface every year, mostly from unvaccinated Americans who were infected while traveling.

The illness had been declared eliminated in 2000 but made a comeback. The U.S. has had 58 cases in 2024 so far, the same number of cases diagnosed in all of 2023.

People who are planning for international travel are being advised to see a doctor at least six weeks before the trip to make sure they are fully protected. Previously, it was suggested to see a doctor a month before, CNN reported.

The organization also noted that vaccination rates in 36 states are lower than they should be, with 95% of kindergarteners receiving the shots. Despite being lower than expected, the vaccination rates against measles in the U.S. are “pretty strong,” with Dr. Nirav Shah noting that not everyone is susceptible to catching measles.

“For vaccinated individuals … the likelihood of contracting measles is thankfully not what it was in days gone by because the vaccination rates are high,” Shah told CNN. “That said, we are concerned that vaccination rates have fallen just a little bit from 95% to 93%.”

The two percentage points account for about 250,000 kindergartners Shah said.

Signs and symptoms of measles

The first symptoms of measles start to show between seven and 14 days after being infected.

The symptoms include:

  • High fever that may spike to 104 degrees or higher
  • Cough
  • Runny nose
  • Red, watery eyes

About two to three days after the initial signs are seen, Koplik spots, or tiny white spots, appear inside the mouth.

After that, about three to five days after the first symptoms began, a rash is seen. It typically starts as flat red spots on the face near the hairline that spread to the neck, trunk, arms, legs and feet. The flat bumps may have smaller raised bumps on top of them. The spots may connect to each other as the rash spreads and the fever may go higher than 104 degrees, the CDC said.

Complications from measles

Common complications from measles include ear infections or diarrhea. About one in five people who are unvaccinated but develop the illness will be hospitalized. One out of 20 children with measles will develop pneumonia, which is the most common cause of death from measles in children, the CDC said.

One out of 1,000 cases in children will result in encephalitis or swelling of the brain.

The people who are most susceptible to developing complications from measles include:

  • Children under 5
  • Adults over 20
  • Pregnant women
  • People with compromised immune systems
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