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The United States has experienced a resurgence of measles, a highly contagious disease that was believed to have been eradicated by the year 2000. Since the start of this outbreak, over 64 cases have been reported nationwide by late last week. This is significantly higher than the total number of cases reported for all of last year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Jesse Ehrenfeld, president of the American Medical Association, has expressed concerns about the decline in vaccination rates against measles in the US since 2019. He warns that this puts more people at risk of illness, disability, and death. Measles is caused by a virus that can easily spread when an infected person coughs, sneezes or talks and sends infectious droplets into the air which others can breathe in. Early symptoms include a mild fever, persistent cough, runny nose, sore throat and watery eyes.

Typically after a few days, the fever rises and red spots and bumps develop on the face and then become a splotchy red rash over most of the body that lasts about a week. Complications from measles infection can include dehydration, ear infection, irritated and swollen airways (croup), and pneumonia. In the US people are usually vaccinated against measles in early childhood with two doses of MMR vaccine given between ages 12-15 months and again at 4-6 years old which provides lifetime protection against this disease.

However due to lower vaccination rates in this school year (2022-2023), approximately 250 thousand kindergartners are at risk for measles infection. Ehrenfeld emphasizes that “the reduction in measles vaccination threatens to erase many years of progress as this previously eliminated vaccine-preventable disease returns.” It is important for parents to ensure their children receive both doses of the MMR vaccine as recommended by healthcare providers to protect them from measles infection.

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