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Preventing Measles Outbreaks

June 9, 2014

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Each year, there are an estimated 20 million cases of measles worldwide. In the process, 164,000 people die, mostly kids under the age of 5.

In the U.S., however, toddlers ages 1 and up have been shielded from the deadly disease by means of an extremely effective vaccine. As a result, the U.S. hasn't seen homegrown cases of the easily spread airborne virus since 2002. But a new "Pediatrics" study, exploring a 2011 outbreak in Minnesota, suggests that the U.S. is not home free yet.

The problem according to the researchers: parents who choose not to vaccinate their children, often out of fears that the vaccine may be harmful. In this case, an unvaccinated 2 year-old American got measles while on a trip in Africa, and then exposed more than 3,000 people at home to the disease. 21 patients, between 4 months and 51 years old, became sick. Two-thirds had to be hospitalized and most had not been inoculated, even though 9 were of vaccine-appropriate age.

The researchers urged health care providers, together with public health and community leaders, to address concerns and help ensure high immunization rates in all of their communities.

I'm Dr. Cindy Haines of HealthDay TV, with news from today that can lead to healthy tomorrows.