High Number of Measles Cases in US Linked to Travel, Vaccine Refusal

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The American Nurses Association Department of Nursing Practice and Policy presents the following information sent by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued a health advisory about US travellers contracting measles abroad, and then causing outbreaks when they return home. The number of confirmed cases so far in 2011 (156) represents the highest number since 1996. In almost all the cases, the individual contracted measles while travelling outside the US, where major outbreaks are occurring especially in Europe. Of the US cases, 86% were unvaccinated, and of those unvaccinated, a majority were intentionally unvaccinated for personal or philosophical objections to vaccines. Major outbreaks are occurring in Minnestoa, Utah, and the metropolitan New York and Boston regions.

Nurses and other health care professionals need to be vigilant for measles, as many cases have been misdiagnosed or undetected. This is largley because many providers have no experience with measles, since, thanks to vaccines, measles has been a very rare medical condition. Some measles cases have had the absence of rash, making detection even more difficult. There are reports of measles cases mistaken for Kawasakis Disease or other acute illness, such as otitis media. Measles is highly contagious, so early detection is key to quickly implement important infection control practices to prevent spread. Also, vaccination, especially for travellers abroad remains paramount to curbing and preventing the spread. Vaccination can protect individuals, but also those that cannot be vaccinated due to age or medical condition. Almost a quarter of the US cases have been in children too young to begin their vaccine series.

For more on the outbreak, read the CDC advisory. http://emergency.cdc.gov/HAN/2011.asp This includes a video on detecting and diagnosing measles, proper infection control practices, and CDC's reports of the ongoing US outbreak.