By Sally Robertson, BSc
Experts report that measles still poses a threat to public health in the U.S, despite vaccination having successfully eliminated the endemic since the 1960s.
The number of individuals bringing the disease into the country after having picked it up while travelling abroad appears to be on the rise, according to an article published in JAMA Pediatrics.
“The ability to detect, fight, and prevent the disease must be developed and strengthened overseas, and not just here in the United States,” says Tom Frieden, Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Before the U.S. vaccination programme was initiated in 1963, measles infected almost every child and claimed hundreds of lives each year. However, prevalence of the disease has since declined and in 2000, complete elimination of the measles endemic in the U.S. was announced.
In December 2011, a panel of experts from the CDC reviewed US state health data on measles from 2001 through to 2011 to determine whether elimination of the endemic had been sustained.
Lead author Mark Papania (CDC, Atlanta, Georgia) and colleagues report that a total of 901 cases of measles were reported between 2001 and 2011.
Elimination of the endemic had indeed been sustained, with the annual rate of reported measles remaining below 1 per 1 000 000 population. However, 801 (88%) of the measles cases were associated with importation and involved 57 different countries including China, Japan, India, Italy, the Philippines, and the United Kingdom.
An average of 34 cases of measles were imported each year, with incidence reaching a peak of 80 in 2011.
“A measles outbreak anywhere is a risk everywhere,” says Frieden. “There may be a misconception that infectious diseases are over in the industrialized world but with patterns of global travel and trade, disease can spread nearly anywhere within 24 hours.”
“The steady arrival of measles in the United States is a constant reminder that deadly diseases are testing our health security every day…detecting diseases before they arrive is a wise investment in U.S. health security,” adds Frieden.