The measles outbreak in Ohio continues to drive the U.S. total higher. The Ohio Department of Health reported on May 23 that it has now recorded 155 cases of the highly contagious respiratory disease this year. The state has seen 72 new cases of measles in the last seven days. Using official and media sources, the year to date total for the United States is 301 measles cases through May 23.
The Department of Health provides some demographics for the measles patients in its report. The patients range in age from six month to 58 years. Female patients slightly outnumber male patients 80 to 75. Seven patients have required hospitalization.
Measles is among the most contagious illnesses known to man. The University of Michigan compiled a table of illnesses and compared their ability to infect. Measles ranked first, followed by pertussis. Feared illnesses such as polio and smallpox are far less contagious.
The state of Virginia has had two measles cases this year. The second patient caught their illness from the first. The contagious nature of measles accounts for the widespread effort of public health officials in Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia to warn the public of potential exposures in the last two weeks. Both patients traveled extensively in the area while contagious, working, exercising and shopping in many different locations.
The Centers for Disease Control describe the period in which a patient may spread their illness:
Measles is highly contagious and can be spread to others from four days before to four days after the rash appears. Measles is so contagious that if one person has it, 90% of the people close to that person who are not immune will also become infected with the measles virus.
Because the telltale rash does not appear immediately, measles patients often believe they have a cold or the flu and continue their daily routines. The virus, spread in droplets from sneezing or coughing, can survive on surfaces for as long as two hours.
While measles outbreaks are taking place in several countries around the world, the largest at this time is in the Philippines. Several of the original measles cases in the Southern California cluster earlier in 2014 and the original illnesses in the Ohio epidemic were acquired in that country. The CDC reports that 22 cases nationally can be tied to that epidemic with most being in infants that had not been vaccinated.