U.S. retains measles-elimination status despite worst outbreak in 25 years: CDC

(Reuters) – The United States has narrowly retained its measles elimination status by World Health Organization standards, despite seeing more than 1,200 measles cases so far this year in the worst outbreak since 1992, federal health officials said on Friday.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control have attributed the country’s worst outbreak over the past year, which began in New York on Oct. 1, 2018, in large part to parents who declined to vaccinate their children.

The disease was declared eliminated in the United States in 2000, meaning there was no continuous transmission for a year, and the outbreak in New York this year narrowly avoided meeting that threshold. The last rash onset associated with a measles case in New York was recorded on Aug. 19.

“Both jurisdictions have since passed two incubation periods for measles with no additional reported cases associated with these outbreaks as of October 1, 2019; however, continued vigilance is important to ensure that elimination is sustained,” the CDC said in a report released on Friday.

Federal health officials have attributed this year’s outbreak to U.S. parents who refuse to vaccinate their children. These parents believe, contrary to scientific evidence, that ingredients in the vaccine can cause autism.

(Reporting by Gabriella Borter in New York; Editing by Scott Malone and Bernadette Baum)

U.S. records no new measles cases for first week since outbreak began

An illustration provides a 3D graphical representation of a spherical-shaped, measles virus particle studded with glycoprotein tubercles in this handout image obtained by Reuters April 9, 2019. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)/Handout via REUTERS

(Reuters) – Health officials recorded no new cases of measles in the United States last week, marking the first week without new cases of the disease since the start of an outbreak largely linked to parents who declined to vaccinate their children.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Monday it had recorded 1,241 cases of the highly contagious and sometimes deadly disease in 31 states as of Sept. 12.

The current outbreak of measles is the worst to hit the country since 1992, when 2,126 cases were reported, and threatens to end the nation’s measles-free status.

The majority of U.S. measles cases this year have occurred in children who had not received the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine, which confers immunity to the disease.

Federal health officials have attributed the outbreak in large part to a vocal fringe of U.S. parents who refuse to vaccinate their children because they believe, contrary to scientific evidence, that ingredients in them can cause autism.

U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar in an April that the current outbreak is “completely avoidable” and the unfortunate result of some people’s choice to deny the proven safety of vaccines.

The weekly increase in the number of cases has tapered down over the last few months, dropping to 7 new cases last week. The report of zero new cases is the latest indication that the outbreak is petering out after dozens of cases were reported per week earlier this year.

The disease was declared eliminated in the United States in 2000, meaning there was no continuous transmission of the disease for a year. Still, cases of the virus occur and spread via travelers coming from countries where measles is common.

(Reporting by Gabriella Borter in New York and Tamara Mathias in Bengaluru; Editing by Shailesh Kuber and Nick Zieminski)

U.S. recorded 18 new cases of measles last week

FILE PHOTO: Materials are seen left at demonstration by people opposed to childhood vaccination after officials in Rockland County, a New York City suburb, banned children not vaccinated against measles from public spaces, in West Nyack, New York, U.S. March 28, 2019. REUTERS/Mike Segar/File Photo

(Reuters) – The United States recorded 18 new measles cases last week, taking the total for the year to 1,095 in the worst outbreak since 1992, federal health officials said on Monday.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said it has recorded cases of the highly contagious and sometimes deadly disease in 28 states as of June 27, the majority of them in New York City and nearby Rockland County.

The running tally includes both active cases and those that have since resolved. No fatalities have been reported.

Health experts say the virus has spread among school-age children whose parents declined to give them the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine, which confers immunity to the disease. A vocal fringe of U.S. parents cite concerns that the vaccine may cause autism, despite scientific studies that have debunked such claims.

Measles was declared eliminated in the United States in 2000, meaning there was no continuous transmission of the disease for a year. Still, cases of the virus occur and spread via travelers coming from countries where measles is common.

CDC officials have warned that the country risks losing its measles elimination status if the ongoing outbreak, which began in October 2018 in New York, continues until October 2019.

(Reporting by Manas Mishra in Bengaluru; Editing by Arun Koyyur and Bill Berkrot)

U.S. records 33 new measles cases, raising year’s total to 1,077

FILE PHOTO: A vial of the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine at the International Community Health Services clinic in Seattle, Washington, U.S., March 20, 2019. REUTERS/Lindsey Wasson

(Reuters) – The United States recorded 33 new measles cases last week, bringing the number of confirmed cases this year to 1,077 in the worst outbreak of the virus since 1992, federal health officials said on Monday.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the cases of the highly contagious and sometimes deadly disease rose 3% in the week ended June 20 from the prior week. The 2019 outbreak, which has spread to 28 states, is the worst since 1992, when 2,126 cases were recorded.

Health experts say the virus has spread among school-age children whose parents declined to give them the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine, which confers immunity to the disease. A vocal fringe of U.S. parents, some in New York’s ultra-Orthodox Jewish communities, cite concerns that the vaccine may cause autism, despite scientific studies that have debunked such claims.

The disease has mostly affected children who have not received the vaccine.

Measles was declared eliminated in the United States in 2000, meaning there was no continuous transmission of the disease for a year. Still, cases of the virus occur and spread via travelers coming from countries where measles is common.

CDC officials have warned that the country risks losing its measles elimination status if the ongoing outbreak, which began in October 2018 in New York, continues until October 2019.

The outbreak has escalated since 82 people in 2018 and more than 40 people in 2019 brought measles to the United States from other countries, most frequently Ukraine, Israel and the Philippines, federal officials said.

(Reporting by Gabriella Borter in New York and Ankur Banerjee in Bengaluru; Editing by Shailesh Kuber and Susan Thomas)

Eroding trust in vaccines leaves populations vulnerable, global study finds

FILE PHOTO: A vial of measles, mumps and rubella vaccine and an information sheet is seen at Boston Children's Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts February 26, 2015. REUTERS/Brian Snyder/File Photo

By Kate Kelland

LONDON, June 19 (Reuters) – Trust in vaccines – one of the world’s most effective and widely-used medical products – is highest in poorer countries but weaker in wealthier ones where skepticism has allowed outbreaks of diseases such as measles to persist, a global study found on Wednesday.

France has the least confidence of any country in the world in the safety and effectiveness of vaccines, with a third believing that vaccines are unsafe, according to the study.

While most parents do choose to vaccinate their children, varying levels of confidence expose vulnerabilities in some countries to potential disease outbreaks, the study’s authors said, recommending that scientists need to ensure people have access to robust information from those they trust.

Public health experts and the World Health Organization (WHO) say vaccines save up to 3 million lives every year worldwide, and decades of research evidence consistently shows they are safe and effective.

But to achieve “herd immunity” to protect whole populations, immunization coverage rates must generally be above 90% or 95%, and vaccine mistrust can quickly reduce that protection.

“Over the last century, vaccines have made many devastating infectious diseases a distant memory,” said Charlie Weller, head of vaccines at the Wellcome Trust health charity, which co-led the Wellcome Global Monitor study.

“It is reassuring that almost all parents worldwide are vaccinating their children. However, there are pockets of lower confidence in vaccines across the world.”

The spread of measles, including in major outbreaks in the United States, the Philippines and Ukraine, is just one of the health risks linked to lower confidence in vaccines.

In Afghanistan and Pakistan, false rumors about polio vaccines being part of a Western plot have in recent years hampered global efforts to wipe out the crippling disease.

The study, led by Wellcome and polling company Gallup, covered 140,000 people from more than 140 countries.

It found 6% of parents worldwide – equivalent to 188 million – say their children are unvaccinated. “The highest totals were in China at 9%, Austria at 8% and Japan at 7%.”

Seth Berkley, chief executive of the not-for-profit GAVI vaccine alliance, said the report showed a “worrying number of people” questioning vaccine safety. But by focusing on the “vocal minority” who refused to vaccinate, it was easy to forget that the vast majority trusted vaccines and the science that underpinned them.

The study also found that three-quarters of the world’s people trust doctors and nurses more than anyone else for health advice and that in most parts of the world, more education and greater trust in health systems, governments and scientists is a also sign of higher vaccine confidence.

In some high-income regions, however, confidence is weaker. Only 72% of people in North America and 73% in Northern Europe agree that vaccines are safe. In Eastern Europe, it is just 50%.

Heidi Larson, director of the vaccine confidence project at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, worked with researchers on this study. She said it “exposes the paradox of Europe” which, despite being a region with among the highest income and education levels, also has the world’s highest levels of vaccine skepticism.

In poorer regions, trust levels tend to be much higher, with 95% in South Asia and 92% in Eastern Africa feeling confident that vaccines are safe and effective.

(Reporting by Kate Kelland; editing by John Stonestreet)

U.S. measles outbreak spreads to Idaho and Virginia, hits 1,022 cases

FILE PHOTO: A vial of the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine at the International Community Health Services clinic in Seattle, Washington, U.S., March 20, 2019. REUTERS/Lindsey Wasson/File Photo

The United States’ worst measles outbreak in a quarter-century spread to Idaho and Virginia last week as public health authorities on Monday reported 41 new cases of the highly contagious and sometimes deadly disease.

The U.S. has recorded 1,022 cases of the diseases this year as of June 6, in an outbreak blamed on misinformation about vaccines, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.

The 2019 outbreak, which has reached 28 states, is the worst since 1992, when 2,126 cases were recorded.

Federal health officials attribute this year’s outbreak to U.S. parents who refuse to vaccinate their children. These parents believe, contrary to scientific evidence, that ingredients in the vaccine can cause autism.

“We cannot say this enough: Vaccines are a safe and highly effective public health tool that can prevent this disease and end the current outbreak,” Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said in a statement last week.

Measles was declared eliminated in the United States in 2000, meaning there was no continuous transmission of the disease for a year. Still, cases of the virus occur and spread via travelers coming from countries where measles is common.

CDC officials have warned that the country risks losing its measles elimination status if the ongoing outbreak, which began in October 2018 in New York, continues until October 2019.

(Reporting by Gabriella Borter in New York and Aakash Jagadeesh Babu in Bengaluru; Editing by Scott Malone and Susan Thomas)

Measles outbreak spreads to Oklahoma as U.S. reports 41 new cases

FILE PHOTO: FILE PHOTO: FILE PHOTO: A vial of the measles, mumps, and rubella virus (MMR) vaccine is pictured at the International Community Health Services clinic in Seattle, Washington, U.S., March 20, 2019. REUTERS/Lindsey Wasson/File Photo/File Photo/File Photo

(Reuters) – The worst measles outbreak in the United States in 25 years has spread to Oklahoma, federal health officials said on Monday as they reported 41 new cases nationwide, raising the total number sickened this year to 880 people.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported a 4.9% increase in the number of measles cases from May 10 to May 17 in an outbreak that has now reached 24 states. The agency has been providing weekly updates every Monday.

The CDC said there had been one confirmed case in Oklahoma.

Most of the new cases were in New York, CDC spokesman Jason McDonald said, with 21 cases recorded in New York City and nine in Rockland County.

Health experts say the virus has spread among school-age children whose parents declined to give them the vaccine, which confers immunity to the disease. A vocal fringe of U.S. parents, some in New York’s ultra-Orthodox Jewish communities, cite concerns that the vaccine may cause autism, despite scientific studies that have debunked such claims.

Although the virus was eliminated from the country in 2000, meaning the disease was no longer a constant presence, outbreaks still happen via travelers coming from countries where measles is still common, according to the CDC.

Experts warn that the outbreak is not over as the number of cases approaches the 1994 total of 958. That was the highest number since 1992, when the CDC recorded 2,126 cases.

More than 40 people in 2019 brought measles to the United States from other countries, most frequently Ukraine, Israel and the Philippines, federal officials said.

(Reporting by Gabriella Borter in New York, Ankur Banerjee in Bengaluru; Editing by Scott Malone and Bill Berkrot)

Maine Senate rejects ending religious exemptions for vaccinations

FILE PHOTO: An illustration provides a 3D graphical representation of a spherical-shaped, measles virus particle studded with glycoprotein tubercles in this handout image obtained by Reuters April 9, 2019. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)/Handout via REUTERS/File Photo

An effort to end all non-medical exemptions for childhood vaccinations in Maine was in limbo on Thursday after the state Senate voted to amend it to allow parents to keep opting out on religious grounds.

The bill had passed the Democratic-controlled state House of Representatives last month, making Maine one of at least seven states considering ending non-medical exemptions amid the worst outbreak of measles in the United States in 25 years.

In a close vote, 18 lawmakers in the Democratic-led state Senate supported an amendment to the House bill to retain the religious exemption that exists in state law, while 17 voted against. The senators approved ending exemptions for children whose parents oppose vaccination for “philosophical reasons.”

Several senators who had trained and worked as doctors argued at length ahead of the vote to allow an exemption only if a healthcare provider deemed it medically necessary. Others noted no major U.S. religion opposes vaccinations.

Senator Linda Sanborn, a Democrat who has practiced family medicine, said the bill was to prevent “an impending disaster” in a state with one of the lowest vaccination rates in the country. Five percent of Maine’s kindergarten students have non-medical exemptions from vaccination, compared with a national average of 2 percent.

She said other fatal diseases could follow the fate of smallpox, which was globally eradicated through vaccination efforts, adding: “It takes a community caring about not just ourselves but our neighbors to make this happen.”

Senate Republicans, including Scott Cyrway, opposed the bill as government overreach into the private sphere.

“We’re forcing someone to do something when we don’t really have to,” Cyrway said.

In neighboring Vermont, lawmakers voted in 2015 to remove philosophical exemptions while leaving in place religious ones. As a result, more parents sought and received those exemptions – 3.9 percent in 2017, up from 0.9 percent in 2015, according to the state’s Department of Health.

In Maine, the amended bill will go back to the House, which can vote either to accept or reject the amendment. If both chambers cannot agree, the bill dies.

A spokeswoman for the House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

There have been no measles cases in Maine since 2007, but officials have worried about recent outbreaks of whooping cough, another childhood disease for which there is a mandatory vaccination.

Only three states have outlawed any non-medical exemptions for vaccinations – California, Mississippi and West Virginia.

(Reporting by Jonathan Allen; Editing by Scott Malone and Peter Cooney)

U.S. records 71 new measles cases in week as outbreak spreads

FILE PHOTO: A general view of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia September 30, 2014. REUTERS/Tami Chappell

(Reuters) – The United States recorded 71 new measles cases last week, a 13 percent increase as the country faces its second-worst outbreak of the disease in almost two decades, federal health officials said on Monday.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said it had recorded 626 cases of the highly contagious and sometimes deadly disease in 22 states as of April 19, the highest rate of infection in five years.

The CDC had previously reported 555 cases in 20 states between Jan. 1 and April 11. The current outbreak will likely surpass the 2014 outbreak in number of cases, the CDC said on Monday.

Iowa and Tennessee were the two states that joined the CDC list with new measles cases.

More than half the cases recorded this year occurred in New York City, primarily in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn.

The U.S. outbreak is part of a worldwide rise in the once nearly eradicated disease. The World Health Organization reported last week that global cases had risen nearly four-fold in the first quarter of 2019 to 112,163 compared with the same period last year.

A vocal fringe of parents in the United States oppose vaccines believing, contrary to scientific evidence, that ingredients in them can cause autism or other disorders.

(Reporting by Manojna Maddipatla in Bengaluru and Gabriella Borter in New York; Editing by Maju Samuel and Bill Berkrot)

Explainer: Low vaccination rates, global outbreaks fuel U.S. measles spread

A measles poster is seen at Venice Family Clinic in Los Angeles, California February 5, 2015. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

By Steve Gorman

(Reuters) – A measles outbreak that has stricken at least 225 people in New York state since October began with a traveler who visited Israel during the Jewish high holidays and returned to a predominantly ultra-Orthodox Jewish neighborhood of Rockland County.

A similar pattern unfolded three months later and nearly 3,000 miles (4,800 km) away when a person who visited Eastern Europe returned to a community with strong ties to a local church group in Vancouver, Washington. More than 50 people fell ill there.

In both instances, U.S. travelers picked up measles in foreign countries where the highly contagious disease was running rampant and brought it back to places where vaccination rates were too low by U.S. public health standards, setting off the worst outbreaks seen in those states in decades.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says New York’s outbreak marks the highest tally of imported cases since measles was declared eradicated in the United States in 2000.

The two outbreaks appear to be winding down, health officials say, after concerted efforts to pinpoint the origins and isolate and inoculate those who were exposed but unprotected and educate parents who had resisted vaccines.

The disease has spread mostly among school-age children whose parents declined to get them vaccinated. Most cited philosophical or religious reasons, or concerns – debunked by medical science – that the three-way vaccines against measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) could cause autism, authorities said.

New York State Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker said another key factor was mere “complacency” in an age where the potential ravages of measles are unfamiliar to parents who came of age after the vaccine was introduced in 1957.

In Rockland County, the suburb north of Manhattan accounting for the bulk of cases, the state has vaccinated 15,000 children since the outbreak began there last autumn, Zucker said. The Brooklyn borough of New York City was another hot spot.

Still, officials say the measles crisis in New York and Washington states offer a lesson about the importance of maintaining a minimum level of “herd” immunization against dangerous, preventable diseases such as measles.

It also highlights the global nature of disease control, in which a hot spot of infection in one country can ignite a distant outbreak in an immunization-weak spot of another, said Dr. Scott Lindquist, Washington’s top epidemiologist.

Here are some key facts about measles and immunization, according to public health experts and the CDC.

WHAT IMMUNIZATION RATES ARE IDEAL?

A 95 percent rate of immunization is required to provide sufficient “herd” protection in a given population. Rates as low as 60 percent were found in parts of New York where measles spread, Zucker said.

HOW BAD CAN MEASLES GET?

Symptoms typically include high fever, cough, runny nose and watery eyes, followed by tiny white spots inside the mouth and a red rash that can cover the body.

Serious and potentially fatal complications, especially in young children and pregnant women, can include pneumonia and swelling of the brain. Ear infections occur in about 10 percent of children with measles and can lead to permanent hearing loss.

One rare but fatal complication is subacute panencephalitis (SSPE), which can attack the central nervous system seven to 10 years after a person has recovered from measles.

HOW CONTAGIOUS IS MEASLES?

Measles is spread through casual contact with the virus, which can linger and remain infectious in the air of an enclosed space for up to two hours after it is breathed out by someone carrying the disease. The rate of transmission from an infected person to another individual nearby who lacks immunity is about 90 percent.

ORIGINS OF LATEST OUTBREAKS?

Health authorities say the strain of the virus identified in Washington state matches the one circulating widely in Ukraine since last year. The New York outbreak has been tracked back to separate flare-ups of measles in Israel and in Eastern Europe.

(Reporting by Steve Gorman in Los Angeles; Editing by Bill Tarrant and Peter Cooney)