THURSDAY, Oct. 20 (HealthDay News) -- The largest U.S. outbreak of measles to occur in 15 years -- affecting 214 children so far -- is likely driven by travelers returning from abroad and by too many unvaccinated U.S. children, according to new research.
The finding could highlight the dangers of a trend among some U.S. parents to skip the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine for their children, out of what many experts call misguided fears over its safety.
Dr. Andrew Pavlo, professor of pediatrics at the University of Utah and spokesman for the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA), said, "The good news is that we are seeing introductions of measles that are being contained as small outbreaks."
Pavlo credits containment to high levels of vaccination and the rapid response by public health officials. However, if an outbreak occurred in a "really susceptible population the outcome could be very different," he said.
"What would happen in an area with a lot of vaccine refusers? Then you might see a much larger outbreak," he said.
Several measles-related studies were unveiled at the annual IDSA annual meeting, currently being held in Boston.
In the first report, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) researchers chronicled the nation's ongoing outbreaks in 2011.
Most of those sickened were not vaccinated against the disease, CDC researchers said.
Before the vaccine became available in the 1960s, some three to four million people contracted measles every year. Of those, 48,000 were hospitalized, 1,000 were permanently disabled and about 500 died, the CDC said.
Unfortunately, "we have experienced an increased incidence of measles this year," said Huong McLean, lead researcher and CDC epidemiologist. "Typically we see 60 to 70 cases a year, this year we have 214 as of Oct. 14."
Among those people infected, 86
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