New Zealand measles reaches United States

Fonoifafo Nancy McFarland-Seumanu

Fonoifafo Nancy McFarland-Seumanu

"New Zealand now has a measles outbreak bigger than all of the USA, is exporting cases overseas, and yet we still don't have enough vaccines to ensure everyone is protected", he said.

Acting Director of the Communicable Disease Control Directorate, Paul Effler, said measles was a serious and highly contagious viral illness spread by tiny droplets released when infected people coughed or sneezed.

The number of new measles cases reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) fell to six in September-the lowest monthly total of 2019-but the United States is still experiencing its worst outbreak in 27 years.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), measles elimination means that there is no transmission of the measles virus in a defined geographic area, such as a country or state "for at least 12 months in the presence of a surveillance system that has been verified to be performing well".

Federal and state officials are confident that the US's measles-free status will remain in place in spite of two cases being reported last week in NY.

Before the measles vaccine was introduced in the United States in 1963, according to the CDC, almost three to four million people were infected annually, with 48,000 of these needing hospitalized and approximately 500 people dying among the 500,000 reported measles cases each year.

There were also 75 imported cases of Chikungunya fever, of which about 70 percent came from Myanmar, and 51 imported cases of measles, of which more than 80 percent originated in Southeast Asian countries.

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Of the recorded cases, over 100 required hospitalization, and 61 patients reported complications including pneumonia and encephalitis.

The outbreak in NY this year narrowly avoided meeting that threshold. "We will remain vigilant in protecting all New Yorkers from measles and other unsafe vaccine-preventable diseases".

The federal government's Health and Human Services (HHS) released its statement today as well, confirming that the measles outbreak in NY which had begun in October 2018 has finally come to an end. A significant factor contributing to outbreaks has been misinformation in some communities about the safety of the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine.

"They remain the most powerful tool to preserve health and to save lives".

It has been estimated 3 to 4 million people in the United States were infected each year. One dose of the vaccine is 93% effective at preventing measles, and two doses are 97% effective against the disease. This amount of measles cases is the highest yearly count since 1992 - over 27 years.

"They're recommending very, very strongly that any travellers, before travelling to New Zealand, get two doses of the measles vaccine if they haven't previously been immunised or had the disease".

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