In the last week, 37 new measles cases were reported to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), according to the weekly report released June 23. The national total is 514 cases which is higher than any yearly total since 1995. The measles outbreak in the Amish community in Ohio accounts for 68 percent of the reported illnesses.
In 1995, the United States recorded 906 cases of measles for the entire year. The current total for 2014 has exceeded the 1996 total of 508 and is continuing to grow.
The Ohio Department of Health releases a daily update on the number of measles cases in that state. As of June 23, the state reports 348 illnesses in nine counties. The first patient in this outbreak reported symptoms on March 24 while the latest patient had an onset of symptoms on June 20. The youngest patient to date was under six months of age. The oldest patient is reported to have been age 53.
Despite the large number of illnesses due to the measles virus, it is noteworthy that no one born prior to 1961 has been infected. The measles vaccination program was begun nationally in 1963, according to the CDC. Prior to that, virtually everyone experienced the illness during childhood and became immune to further infections. The demographics of the Ohio outbreak appear to confirm a measles immunity exists for those in late middle age and the elderly, even in the Amish community.
Measles is one of the most contagious illnesses known to man. Despite a characteristic rash, it is a respiratory disease. The Ohio Department of Health has this to say:
Measles is highly contagious and is spread easily. The measles virus resides in the mucus in the nose and throat of infected people. When they sneeze or cough, droplets spray into the air and the droplets remain active and contagious on infected surfaces for up to 2 hours. Infected people are usually contagious from about 4 days before their rash starts to 4 days afterwards. Thus, an infected person can spread the disease before knowing he or she is infected.
The only other recent measles outbreak has been the one in the Kansas City, MO metro area. There have been at least 14 illnesses, all linked, according to a spokeswoman for the Kansas Department of Health. Johnson County in Kansas reports three while Clay County in Missouri reports 11.
Earlier in 2014, southern California experienced a measles outbreak that grew to 60 cases before it ended. New York City saw an outbreak of 26 cases, as well. In the state of Washington, two smaller outbreaks with a total number of 15 patients were reported. The number of cases reported by the combined 14 remaining states with measles illnesses totals 46.