(HealthDay News) — Measles cases in the United States are at a 20-year high so far this year. And nearly all the cases involve unvaccinated U.S. residents who’ve traveled abroad to countries where the disease is much more prevalent, federal health officials said Thursday.

As of May 23, there had been 288 measles cases reported to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the largest number of cases in the first five months of a year since 1994, the agency said. Of the 288 cases, 97% (280 cases) involved unvaccinated people bringing the virus back from overseas. More than one in seven cases led to the patient’s hospitalization, officials said.

An “ongoing outbreak in Ohio alone had reported 138 cases by May 23,” Assistant Surgeon General Anne Schuchat, MD, said at a midday news conference. The Ohio cases include “multiple Amish communities [that have] roots with travel to the Philippines,” she added. The Philippines has reported more than 32,000 cases and 41 deaths from measles between January 1 and April 20 of this year.

“The current increase in measles cases is being driven by unvaccinated people, primarily U.S. residents, who got measles in other countries, brought the virus back to the United States and spread [it] to others in communities where many people are not vaccinated,” Schuchat said in a CDC news release. If a health care provider suspects that a patient has measles, they should immediately isolate the patient to help prevent the disease from spreading, immediately report the case to their local health department, and collect specimens for blood and viral testing, the CDC said.

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Image courtesy of CDC.gov.