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„Kein guter Start“

von NFI Redaktion

March 14, 2024 – Just over two months into the year 2024, the situation with measles cases in the United States is not looking good.

The recent increase in cases in the USA has been linked to unvaccinated travelers, suboptimal vaccination rates, and misinformation, experts say.

The CDC has identified 45 measles cases in 17 jurisdictions in the USA. On March 7, the federal health agency reported measles cases in Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, New York City, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Washington.

Regarding the 45 cases, „that’s almost as many as we had in the entire calendar year 2023,“ said Dr. Sarah Lim, specialist at the Minnesota Department of Health. „So, we really didn’t get off to a good start.“ (To illustrate: Last year saw 58 officially reported measles cases.)

Chicago is experiencing a measles outbreak this week – eight cases have been reported so far. All but one case have been linked to a migrant child in an urban shelter. Given the potential for rapid spread – measles are relatively rare here but can be very serious – the CDC has dispatched an expert team to investigate the situation and help prevent further escalation of this outbreak.

Sometimes Fatal

Approximately 30% of children infected with measles develop symptoms, with many requiring hospitalization. Complications include diarrhea, a rash all over the body, ear infections that can lead to permanent deafness, and pneumonia. Measles-related pneumonia can be so severe that one in twenty affected children dies. Measles can also cause encephalitis, an inflammation of the brain, in about one in 1,000 children, sometimes leading to epilepsy or permanent brain damage.

Similar to Long-COVID, some effects can persist beyond the early infection. For example, measles can „wipe out the immune memory that protects you from other bacterial and viral pathogens,“ said Lim at a press conference of the Infectious Diseases Society of America. This vulnerability to other infections can persist for up to three years after the initial infection, she noted.

Overall, between 1 and 3 infected individuals per thousand die from measles, mostly children.

Misinformation About Vaccines Plays a Role

Part of the reason for the increase is misinformation about vaccines, and although many cases are mild, „it can be a devastating disease,“ said Joshua Barocas, MD, associate professor of medicine in the divisions of General Internal Medicine and Infectious Diseases at the University of Colorado School of Medicine.

„One doesn’t want to scare people unnecessarily – but it’s incredibly important to remind people what these childhood diseases really look like and what they can cause,“ said Lim. „It’s much easier to see stories about possible vaccine side effects than it is to do it.“ Look at stories of parents whose children spent two weeks in the ICU with pneumonia due to a severe case of measles.“

„And there’s no reason to believe that vaccines are anything but helpful when it comes to preventing measles,“ he noted.

Lifelong Protection in Most Cases

The MMR vaccine, typically given in two doses in childhood, provides 93% protection and then 97% protection against the highly contagious virus. In the 2022-2023 school year, the measles vaccination rate among kindergarten children nationwide was 92%. That sounds like a high rate, said Lim, „but because measles are so contagious, vaccination rates need to be 95% or higher to contain transmission.“

An individual with measles can infect between 12 and 18 other people, she said. When an infected person coughs or sneezes, tiny droplets spread in the air. „And if someone is unvaccinated and exposed, that person will develop the disease in nine out of ten cases.“ She said that measles often spread within families due to the high transmission rate, infecting multiple children.

If you’re unsure or can’t remember being vaccinated against measles as a child, your doctor may be able to search state registries for an answer. If that doesn’t help, getting a re-vaccination with the MMR vaccine as an adult is an option. „There’s no shame in catching up now,“ Barocas said.


Sarah Lim, MD, Minnesota Department of Health.

Joshua Barocas, MD, University of Colorado School of Medicine.

Media briefing, Infectious Diseases Society of America: „Measles and Misinformation: Impact on Public Health,“ March 12, 2024.

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