Measles on the Rise

The number of cases in the United States of measles—a viral disease that in 2000 was declared eliminated from the U.S. population—has reached a six-year high. A Center for Disease Control (CDC) report shows that between January 1 and April 25, 2008, 64 cases in nine states were confirmed. That count doesn’t include eight additional cases reported in Washington State in early May.

Measles is spread through coughing and sneezing, and typically presents with a rash, high fever, cough, runny nose and red, watery eyes. About one in five measles sufferers experience more severe symptoms that can include diarrhea, vomiting, ear infections and pneumonia, and, rarely, encephalitis and death. The two major causes of the measles resurgence are thought to be international travel—it remains a common disease in much of the world—and an increase in the number of people choosing not to get vaccinated or to vaccinate their children (see “Calling the Shots,” Your Health, July/August 2007).