CDC: Measles Cases Surpass 2023 Total in First 3 Months of 2024

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The CDC issued a new update on the virus’ spread across the United States.

Data provided by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows that the total number of measles cases in the United States so far in 2024 has surpassed 2023’s numbers.

As of March 21, the agency confirmed there were 64 measles cases in 17 states, while it confirmed 58 measles cases in all of 2023. Cases were reported in Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, New York City, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Washington this year.
Last week, the CDC issued a health alert that international travelers should be wary of the increase in cases in the United States and worldwide, advising them to get the measles vaccine. It namely singled out countries including the United Kingdom, Austria, Romania, and the Philippines as ones that are experiencing measles outbreaks.

“Among the 58 cases reported in 2024, 54 (93 percent) were linked to international travel,” the advisory said. “Most cases reported in 2024 have been among children aged 12 months and older who had not received measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine.”

However, the CDC said that because of the high population immunity against measles in the United States, “the risk of widescale spread is low.” It noted that some areas may “leave some communities at higher risk for outbreaks.”

The agency advised parents who plan to travel outside the United States to speak with a health care provider to make sure they received the MMR vaccine at least two weeks prior.

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It came after multiple outbreaks of the contagious virus were reported in several areas across the United States, including a Chicago shelter holding illegal immigrants earlier this month. Officials have said that 10 cases were connected to the shelter, prompting the CDC to send a team to the area to investigate and try and prevent the spread of the virus.

The head of the Chicago Department of Public Health, Dr. Olusimbo Ige told NBC News this month that the agency is “trying to get it under control by vaccinating as many people as possible” at the shelter, coming as about a dozen cases have been confirmed so far. He added that it takes about three weeks for the vaccine to start working.

A CDC official, meanwhile, described the situation at the illegal immigrant shelter “an outbreak,” adding that “we have a very low bar for calling an outbreak” for measles in the United States.

“I think that what’s really important is measles is not COVID. So we have a very high level of immunity in the population. This is not a foe that is new to us. It’s a foe that we know, and we know how we can prevent it,” Demetre Daskalakis, the head of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases at the CDC, told CBS News earlier in March.

Aside from Chicago, health officials in the District of Columbia and Virginia issued notices in January regarding a “case of measles in a person who traveled through” area airports after returning from “international travel.” Later, someone traveling through the Cincinnati Airport also triggered an advisory from local officials in Ohio and Kentucky, warning about a possible exposure.

In California, officials in Sacramento and El Dorado counties warned in March that as many as 300 people may have been exposed to the virus after an infected child visited a local hospital.

And last month, a school district in Broward County, Florida, reported several cases of measles. But this week, the district confirmed in a statement that the outbreak is now officially over because no new cases have been reported since it started.

The CDC and the World Health Organization in November said that there were nine million measles cases and 136,000 deaths in 2022.

Symptoms

Health authorities say that measles is a highly transmissible virus that spreads through the air when a person breathes, coughs, talks, or sneezes, and the virus generally shows up in two stages.

In the first stage, most people develop a fever higher than 101 degrees Fahrenheit, runny nose, watery red eyes, or cough. These symptoms generally start seven to 14 days after being exposed.

Officials say the second measles stage starts about two to three days after the initial symptoms. Some people develop what is known as Koplik spots—tiny white spots—inside the mouth, according to the CDC.

Three to five days after the first symptoms begin, the telltale measles rash starts to appear on the patient’s face near the hairline area before it spreads to the rest of the body, spreading downward, the CDC has said.

“Small raised bumps may also appear on top of the flat red spots,” and the “spots may become joined together as they spread from the head to the rest of the body,” the agency says. “When the rash appears, a person’s fever may spike to more than 104 degrees Fahrenheit.”

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