As a measles outbreak sickens more than a dozen children in Ohio, local health officials are asking the CDC for help
A growing measles outbreak in Columbus, Ohio, has sickened more than a dozen unvaccinated children and hospitalized nine, and local public health officials are asking the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for help.
“We have asked the CDC for assistance and they will be sending two epidemiologists at the end of the month to assist with our local investigation,” Kelli Newman, a spokeswoman for Columbus Public Health, told CNN in an email Thursday.
The CDC confirmed Thursday that it is aware of the cases and is “deploying a small team in Ohio to assist in the field with the investigation.”
“State and local health authorities are in the process of notifying potentially exposed residents, ensuring they are vaccinated and helping any community members who may have been exposed understand the signs and symptoms of measles infection,” CDC spokeswoman Kristen Nordlund said in an email to CNN. “Anyone who may have been exposed should contact their doctor.”
When the measles outbreak was first reported last weekonly four confirmed cases have been identified in one childcare facility, which has been temporarily closed – but the number of cases and facilities involved has increased.
As of Friday morning, Columbus Public Health officials updated their investigation to include 19 confirmed cases and more suspected cases at 10 daycare centers and two schools.
“All cases are in unvaccinated children, and all but one are younger than 4 years old. One child is 6 years old,” Newman said.
Columbus Public Health and Franklin County Public Health officials are investigating these cases and tracing any contacts who may have been exposed to the measles virus.
Columbus Public Health officials encourage parents to make sure their children have regular vaccinations, including the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine, known as the MMR vaccine.
Experts recommend that children receive two doses of the vaccine: the first between 12 and 15 months of age and the second between 4 and 6 years of age. One dose is about 93% effective in preventing measles if you come in contact with the virus. Two doses are about 97% effective.
“We are working diligently on cases to identify any potential exposure and notify people who have been exposed,” Columbus Public Health Commissioner Dr. Mysheika Roberts he said in a press release last week. “The most important thing you can do to protect yourself from measles is to get the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine, which is safe and very effective.”
About 90% of unvaccinated people who have been exposed to measles will become infected, according to Columbus Public Health, and about 1 in 5 people in the US who get measles will be hospitalized.
However CDC says that more than 90% of children in the US have been vaccinated against measles, mumps and rubella by age 2.
Measles is a highly contagious disease that can spread through the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes, or if someone comes into direct contact or exchanges germs by touching the same objects or surfaces. Measles symptoms can include fever, cough, runny nose, watery eyes, and a red-spotted rash. In rare cases, it can lead to pneumonia, encephalitis or death.
The measles outbreak in Columbus is a “fairly typical scenario” of an infectious virus finding its way into an environment and spreading among unvaccinated people, said Dr. David Freedman, professor emeritus of infectious diseases at University of Alabama at Birmingham and founder of the Travelers Health Clinic.
Freedman said that during the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic, while many people stayed at home and some health facilities were closed, many children missed their routine vaccinations – and still may not have received their MMR shots.
“There are many children across the country who are late with routine vaccinations. So I think the message is still, if your child is 1 year old or older, they need to be vaccinated,” said Freedman, a spokesman for the Infectious Diseases Society of America.
“Measles is not particularly a winter disease. It is not as likely to be affected by travel as it usually occurs in young children who are not immune. Most adults are vaccinated,” he said. However, he added, “measles is highly contagious. Measles is probably the most contagious disease we know. It’s probably 10 times more contagious than Covid.”
In 1912 measles became a a nationally notifiable disease in the United States, meaning that health care providers and laboratories had to report diagnosed cases. In the decade that followed, an average of about 6,000 measles-related deaths were reported annually.
In the 1950s, researchers isolated the measles virus in a patient’s blood, and in the 1960s they succeeded in transforming that virus into a vaccine. The vaccine was licensed and then used as part of a vaccination program.
Ago measles vaccination program was introduced in the United States in 1963, an estimated 3 million to 4 million people contract the disease each year nationwide, according to the CDC. After that, the number of measles cases and deaths in the United States and other developed countries declined sharply. There were 963 reported cases in the United States in 1994 and 508 in 1996.
The last major measles outbreak reported in the US was in 2019 the largest since the disease was declared eliminated in 2000 and included more than a thousand confirmed cases in 31 states – the largest number of reported cases in the US since 1992.
Overall, the number of measles infections reported in the United States each year remains low because of the widespread use of the vaccine, said Dr. Martin Hirsch, professor of medicine at Harvard University and Massachusetts General Hospital, where he also serves as editor of the Journal of Infectious Diseases.
As of October 28, a total of 33 measles cases have been reported this year in five jurisdictions across the United States, According to the CDC.
“Over 90% of people in the United States are vaccinated against measles, and even though it’s a highly transmissible virus, I wouldn’t expect the rate, for example, that we’re seeing now with RSV because I don’t have the RSV vaccine,” Hirsch said, referring to And wave of respiratory syncytial virus infection across the country, mostly among children.
“Most of the measles cases we see in the United States are the result of people coming into this country from other countries where immunization rates are much lower, followed by transmission to unvaccinated U.S. residents,” said Hirsch, a spokesman for the Infectious Diseases Society of America. diseases. “So there’s always the possibility that someone carrying the measles virus into the country could spread it to an unvaccinated population.”