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Measles Cases Highest Since 1996
Date:8/21/2008

Parents' philosophical, religious fear of vaccination leading to increase, CDC report says

THURSDAY, Aug. 21 (HealthDay News) -- Some parents' refusal to vaccinate children seems to be behind the highest rate of measles cases reported since 1996, federal officials said Thursday.

Between Jan. 1 and July 31 of this year, 131 measles cases have been reported in the United States, many of them among children whose parents have philosophical or religious objections to the vaccine, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

At least 15 patients, including four children 15 months or younger, were hospitalized. No deaths have been reported.

By comparison, 55 cases of measles were reported in 2006, 66 in 2005, 37 in 2004, 56 in 2003 and 44 in 2002, for an average of about 64 per year.

"Every year, we experience importation of measles from other countries and from those going abroad, but this year is different. Once measles is imported here, we're seeing it spread to many more people," Dr. Anne Schuchat, director of the CDC's National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said during a Thursday teleconference. "Many cases are in children who are eligible for vaccination but who have not been immunized because of parents' decisions."

Before the measles vaccine became available in the mid-1960s, the disease caused an estimated 450 deaths and 4,000 cases of measles encephalitis annually, some 1,000 of which resulted in chronic disability. In the decade before the vaccination was introduced, an estimated 3 million to 4 million people were infected each year.

The disease was declared eliminated from the United States in 2000, but sporadic cases are imported from other countries. Some 20 million cases still occur globally, said Dr. Jane Seward, deputy director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases' division of viral diseases.

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