A report released Thursday said the measles cases show the need...

A report released Thursday said the measles cases show the need to increase routine childhood vaccinations. Credit: TNS/Dreamstime

Almost 30% of measles cases reported in the United States since 2020 occurred during the first few months of this year, an alarming trend that shows the need to increase routine childhood vaccination, according to a new report released Thursday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

One of those cases was an unvaccinated Nassau County child under the age of 5 who was admitted in March to Cohen Children’s Medical Center. The child has since been released from the hospital.

There were 338 confirmed measles cases reported to the CDC between Jan. 1, 2020, and March 28, 2024, with 97, or 29%, during the first three months of 2024. The majority of cases were among children 4 years of age or younger who were not vaccinated. As of April 4, there were 113 cases reported across the nation so far this year.

Measles, a highly contagious viral respiratory disease, was declared eliminated in the United States in 2000. The last threat to its elimination status was in 2019 due to two outbreaks in under-vaccinated communities in New York and New York City, according to the CDC.

“The rapid increase in the number of reported measles cases during the first quarter of 2024 represents a renewed threat to elimination,” the CDC report read.

Symptoms include fever, cough and a rash. It can sometimes lead to serious complications such as pneumonia and encephalitis. The CDC said about 1 in 5 unvaccinated people in the United States who gets measles is hospitalized and about 1 in 20 children with measles gets pneumonia.

Almost all of the cases since 2020, about 96%, were among people who had traveled overseas or been in contact with someone who had traveled. The majority — 61% — of these cases were among people who had not been vaccinated or whose vaccination status was unknown.

The CDC said the percentage of children receiving the measles, mumps, rubella (MMR) vaccine nationwide has been lower than the desired 95% for three consecutive years, “leaving approximately 250,000 kindergarten children susceptible to measles each year.”

Experts believe 95% is the estimated population-level immunity needed to prevent sustained measles transmission.

The current population immunity in the U.S. is still high enough that the risk for widespread measles transmission is low, according to authors of the study.

Guidance from the CDC states that children should get their first dose of the vaccine at 12 to 15 months and the second dose between 4 and 6 years of age.

Statistics from the New York State Department of Health show 81% of children in Nassau County and 82% of children in Suffolk County have received their first dose of the MMR vaccine by the age of 2. That's slightly higher than the statewide rate of 79%.

Dr. Aaron Glatt, chairman of medicine and chief of infectious diseases at Mount Sinai South Nassau hospital in Oceanside, said he is very concerned about the drop in vaccinations.

“I think it's unfortunately a social phenomenon,” said Glatt, noting that influential, nonscientific people have spread misinformation about vaccines. “There are decreasing trends in vaccination, not increasing trends. One would've thought that if you see data like this, you rush to the pediatrician.”

He said it’s important for physicians and other health care workers to have a respectful dialogue with parents who are vaccine hesitant, instead of chastising them.

“I think we have to be able to present in a calm, clear fashion why these MMR vaccines are essential for their kids’ health,” he said. “This is a disease that is a killer.”

Study authors listed several recommendations, including taking steps to boost routine vaccination coverage, making sure you are vaccinated before traveling internationally, identifying communities at risk for measles transmission and quickly investigating suspected cases.

Almost 30% of measles cases reported in the United States since 2020 occurred during the first few months of this year, an alarming trend that shows the need to increase routine childhood vaccination, according to a new report released Thursday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

One of those cases was an unvaccinated Nassau County child under the age of 5 who was admitted in March to Cohen Children’s Medical Center. The child has since been released from the hospital.

There were 338 confirmed measles cases reported to the CDC between Jan. 1, 2020, and March 28, 2024, with 97, or 29%, during the first three months of 2024. The majority of cases were among children 4 years of age or younger who were not vaccinated. As of April 4, there were 113 cases reported across the nation so far this year.

Measles, a highly contagious viral respiratory disease, was declared eliminated in the United States in 2000. The last threat to its elimination status was in 2019 due to two outbreaks in under-vaccinated communities in New York and New York City, according to the CDC.

“The rapid increase in the number of reported measles cases during the first quarter of 2024 represents a renewed threat to elimination,” the CDC report read.

Symptoms include fever, cough and a rash. It can sometimes lead to serious complications such as pneumonia and encephalitis. The CDC said about 1 in 5 unvaccinated people in the United States who gets measles is hospitalized and about 1 in 20 children with measles gets pneumonia.

Almost all of the cases since 2020, about 96%, were among people who had traveled overseas or been in contact with someone who had traveled. The majority — 61% — of these cases were among people who had not been vaccinated or whose vaccination status was unknown.

The CDC said the percentage of children receiving the measles, mumps, rubella (MMR) vaccine nationwide has been lower than the desired 95% for three consecutive years, “leaving approximately 250,000 kindergarten children susceptible to measles each year.”

Experts believe 95% is the estimated population-level immunity needed to prevent sustained measles transmission.

The current population immunity in the U.S. is still high enough that the risk for widespread measles transmission is low, according to authors of the study.

Guidance from the CDC states that children should get their first dose of the vaccine at 12 to 15 months and the second dose between 4 and 6 years of age.

Statistics from the New York State Department of Health show 81% of children in Nassau County and 82% of children in Suffolk County have received their first dose of the MMR vaccine by the age of 2. That's slightly higher than the statewide rate of 79%.

Dr. Aaron Glatt, chairman of medicine and chief of infectious diseases at Mount Sinai South Nassau hospital in Oceanside, said he is very concerned about the drop in vaccinations.

“I think it's unfortunately a social phenomenon,” said Glatt, noting that influential, nonscientific people have spread misinformation about vaccines. “There are decreasing trends in vaccination, not increasing trends. One would've thought that if you see data like this, you rush to the pediatrician.”

He said it’s important for physicians and other health care workers to have a respectful dialogue with parents who are vaccine hesitant, instead of chastising them.

“I think we have to be able to present in a calm, clear fashion why these MMR vaccines are essential for their kids’ health,” he said. “This is a disease that is a killer.”

Study authors listed several recommendations, including taking steps to boost routine vaccination coverage, making sure you are vaccinated before traveling internationally, identifying communities at risk for measles transmission and quickly investigating suspected cases.

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