LANSING – Following the recent confirmation of two measles cases in the Traverse City area, the Michigan Department of Community Health (MDCH) is reminding all residents to protect themselves against the disease by making certain they are up to date on their vaccines. Michigan is now among 23 states that have reported cases of measles in 2014. The Michigan cases were unvaccinated and were exposed to measles during travel in the Philippines. Additional cases are under investigation.
“Although the once common disease is now a rarity in the United States, Measles can spread when it reaches a community where groups of people are unvaccinated,” said Dr. Matthew Davis, Chief Medical Executive with the MDCH. “The progress made here in the U.S. may be threatened by the high incidence of measles elsewhere in the world. To protect against outbreaks and stop the disease from widely spreading in the U.S., we need to succeed in our efforts to keep immunization rates high.”
From 2001 – 2012, the average number of measles cases reported nationally per year was 60. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there have been more than 600 cases reported this year in the U.S., and the vast majority of cases have been among persons who had no history of vaccination against measles.
The Philippines is experiencing a very large and ongoing measles outbreak, with more than 50,000 measles cases and more than 100 measles-related deaths reported this year. Many of the cases in the U.S. this year have been traced to travel in or contact with the Philippines. Measles also continues to be common in many other parts of the world including some countries in Europe, Asia, Africa and the Pacific.
Measles is a vaccine-preventable disease that can result in hospitalization, pneumonia, encephalitis, and death. Measles illness involves a high fever, conjunctivitis (red, inflamed eyelid membranes), cough, runny nose, photophobia, and a generalized red, raised body rash starting on the head and face and progressing to the rest of the body. Because measles is highly communicable, successful prevention and control requires high levels of immunity in all communities.
The measles vaccine is highly effective and very safe. The first of two routine childhood measles vaccine doses is given at 12 months of age. For international travel, infants as young as 6 months should be vaccinated against measles. The vaccination, or documentation of immunity to measles, is recommended for all persons travelling internationally.