Measles eliminated from the US: Will India learn?

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Fifty years after the introduction of an effective measles vaccine, the disease is no longer endemic in the U.S. Measles was declared “eliminated” from the U.S. in 2000 –– with elimination defined as the lack of any continuous disease transmission for 12 months or more in a defined geographical area –– and a study by Mark Papania, MD, of the CDC’s Division of Viral Diseases in Atlanta, and colleagues that was published online in JAMA Pediatrics confirmed that the disease remained eliminated through 2011. But cases continue to be imported into the country from around the world, where an average of 430 children die from measles each day.

From 2001 to 2011, Papania and colleagues reported, the median number of U.S. cases each year was 61. But 175 –– including 20 resulting in hospitalization –– were reported to the CDC from January through the end of November this year. Another surge was seen in 2011, when 222 cases were recorded. That number is minute compared with the burden before the measles vaccine was introduced in 1963. Up until then, measles was common, causing 450 to 500 deaths, 48,000 hospitalizations, 7,000 seizures, and 1,000 cases of permanent brain damage or deafness each year, according to the CDC (MedPage).