CDC Sends Out New ‘Health Alert’ Over Measles Vaccination

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The agency said health care providers should ‘ensure’ international travelers get vaccinated.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) sent out a “health alert” on Monday due to what it called an increase in global and U.S. measles cases, saying that health providers should “ensure” that international travelers are vaccinated.

Of the 58 cases reported across the United States in 2o24, about 93 percent are connected “to international travel,” the CDC said Monday. It said that most of the cases are reported in children aged 12 months and older who have not received a measles vaccine.

“To prevent measles infection and reduce the risk of community transmission from importation, all U.S. residents traveling internationally, regardless of destination, should be current on their MMR vaccinations,” the CDC said, referring to the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine that is commonly administered across the world.

“Many countries, including travel destinations such as Austria, the Philippines, Romania, and the United Kingdom, are experiencing measles outbreaks,” the agency also warned.

But due to “currently high population immunity against measles in most U.S. communities, the risk of widescale spread is low,” the health alert said. “However, pockets of low coverage leave some communities at higher risk for outbreaks.”

The agency then 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 last week 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.
Other than Chicago, cases have been reported in more than a dozen U.S. states so far in 2024, according to CDC data. Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, New York City, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Washington state have all reported cases this year.

Earlier this year, health officials in the District of Columbia and Virginia issued notices 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 February, 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.

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

Previous Alerts

In late January, the CDC sent out an alert to health care providers, saying doctors and nurses should be on the lookout for suspected measles cases amid several outbreaks this year.

The agency said health care providers should “immediately” report suspected measles cases to state and local health agencies, which are then reported to the CDC.

“Do not allow patients with suspected measles to remain in the waiting room or other common areas of the healthcare facility; isolate patients with suspected measles immediately, ideally in a single-patient airborne infection isolation room,” the agency said.

Symptoms

Authorities say measles generally shows up in two stages. In the first, most people develop a fever higher than 101 degrees F, runny nose, watery red eyes, or cough. These symptoms generally start seven to 14 days after being exposed.

Officials say the second stage of measles 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.

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